Moving Your Business Online
The impact of COVID-19 has made many business owners think about moving online or running their operations from home. Brands may find that the sooner they take the leap the more efficient their business will become. They may as a result see an increase in revenue as well as greater resilience in economically challenging times.
There are a number of legal considerations to bear in mind when shifting to e-commerce and/or running your operations from home.
1. Compliance with Privacy Regulations
Whether you are looking to set up an online store or using the website as a means of marketing your business it is important to ensure that you are complying with the relevant regulations.
Under the GDPR, for example, when a consumer makes a purchase they often set out their contact information as part of the transaction. The forms on your website asking users whether they wish to be contacted to receive offers or promotional information cannot be opted-into (checked) by default and the user must actively opt in. Separate consents must also be obtained from the use for each different way in which their data can be processed e.g. permission to contact them with details for affiliate brands must be separately obtained from permission to pass the contact information onto third parties. You should also implement an SSL certificate on your website for the encryption of personal data and verify the security of data coming through your website on a regular basis.
The standard disclaimers and notices regarding privacy, cookies and data usage should also be easily accessible on your website.
2. Payment systems
If you are selling your products or services online, customers will require a payment system which enables them to pay securely. If you are capturing, storing, processing or transmitting card data, you must comply with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). Many businesses prefer to outsource card data to a payment service provider such as PayPal or Worldpay as the requirements of the PCI DSS are extensive. If you choose to do so, you should still take steps to ensure that you are fully aware of the payment route and all environments that card data touches and conduct regular checks of your website to ensure that unknown web pages have not been added to the payment transaction journey.
3. Consumer Protection
If you are selling online, you will need to put in place a set of terms and conditions for the supply of goods or services to consumers, which specifically apply to contracts being concluded online (as opposed to those transacted in a physical store). These terms should comply with legislation governing consumer contracts, which is a complex area. In particular, you should ensure that those terms and conditions satisfy the requirements of transparency in the Consumer Rights Act 2015.
You should also ensure that your website contains the requisite copyright notice to prevent plagiarising of your website design and content. It is also important for you to ensure that your company is not itself in breach of copyright laws by making use of copyrighted images or videos from another source.
5. Running your Business from Home
If you wish to run a business from your home, there are a number of legal considerations to take into account such as obtaining requisite permissions and licences from your mortgage provider, landlord or local council. You may need to take out business insurance policy and consider certain tax issues, such as the need to pay business rates on the part of your property that you use for business. Contact the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) to verify if it has given a rateable value to part of your home and whether you have to pay business rates.
We are able to provide advisory and drafting services to help you make the shift online. If you would like to discuss how we can ensure that your website or home operations are legally compliant and protected, please do not hesitate to contact us.
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