Selling online: consumer contracts

Comply with online selling laws: checklist


There is a range of legislation that you are obliged to comply with when transacting online. The rules are designed to protect the purchasers' rights and to make it clear when a contract between buyer and seller becomes binding.

  • Contract formation - ensure that terms and conditions are incorporated at the time the contract is concluded. Click-wrap agreements - made by pointing and clicking online to indicate acceptance - are a good idea.
  • Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 - you should ensure that you comply with this legislation, which covers contracts made with consumers online or away from your premises.
  • Data Protection Act - you must comply with this legislation, which imposes conditions on both data processors and controllers.
  • Intellectual property - issues such as copyright and trade marks should be considered, not just for items displayed on your site, but also within any metatags.
  • Consumer protection legislation - legislation such as the Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977, the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999 and the Consumer Protection (Northern Ireland) Order 1987 apply equally to goods sold over the internet. Some of this protection is also extended to business purchasers under the Business Protection from Misleading Marketing Regulations 2008.
  • Security - be aware that selling online will necessitate the passing of sensitive data and payment instructions. An online vendor could be liable for breaches of security on their site.
  • Exclusions on restricted goods - some types of goods which are legal to sell in one jurisdiction may be prohibited in other jurisdictions.
  • Specific regulation - specific industries may be regulated. This is particularly the case with premium-rate internet sites or those aimed at children. There may also be implications as a consequence of competition law. Check each potential market sector carefully.
  • Access agreement - it is important to have terms and conditions governing the use of your website. These must be set out prior to the customer proceeding to purchase - commonly the customer must click on an 'I agree' button to proceed, indicating acceptance of the terms and conditions.
  • Advertised delivery restrictions and surcharges - any advertised delivery claims you make must be accurate. Any qualifications about delivery must not contradict the main claim. For example, claims about 'UK delivery' must apply equally across the whole UK including Northern Ireland and the Scottish Highlands.