Changes to the Companies Act came into effect on 1 January 2007 requiring certain regulatory information to be put on business websites and email footers, and companies failing to have done this are in breach of the Companies Act and risk a fine.
Every company must list its company registration number, place of registration and registered office address on its website as a result of an update to the Companies Act of 1985. This information is already required on ‘business letters’ but must now be added to websites, order forms and electronic documents including invoices. The E-commerce Regulations apply to all business websites irrespective of whether or not they are used for online sales.
The change was made by a Statutory Instrument to incorporate a European law, the First Company Law Amendment Directive, into UK law. The following checklist of the minimum information now required on company websites has been taken from OUT-LAW’s guide The UK’s E-commerce Regulations:
- Name, geographic address and email address of service provider
- A PO Box is not deemed to be a geographic address – the registered office address should be supplied
- Name of the organisation with which the customer is contracting (this might differ from the trading name, and the difference should be explained)
- It is not sufficient to include a ‘contact us’ form without also providing an email address and geographic address somewhere easily accessible on the site
- Registered office address must be included if the business is a company
- Company’s registration number as well as the place of registration (e.g. “XYZ Enterprises Limited is a company registered in England and Wales with company number 1234567″)
- If the business is a member of a trade or professional association, membership details (including any registration number) should be provided
- Company’s VAT number
- Prices on the website must be clear and unambiguous
The good news is that this specified information does not need to appear on every web page. The bad news is that there are also further information requirements for online businesses that sell to consumers (rather than business2business) governed by The Distance Selling Regulations. Check www.out-law.com (which is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons) for a free guide to these regulations.
Companies keen to comply with the information requirements for e-mails are likely to add their own standardised paragraph to every email they send to avoid having to decide which email amounts to a ‘business letter’. Information about e-mail Disclaimers and Confidentiality Notices and examples of each can be found on: http://www.out-law.com/page-5536
If you are still in doubt as to what is required by your company then it might be prudent to seek legal advice, and if you belong to one of the local small business associations you may be eligible to use a free legal help line to get you started.
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