16 Mar 2022

Spotlight on websites


If your business operates a website, there are a number of points you should bear in mind.

Information to be provided: All website operators are required to set out specified information on their websites. For a company this includes, in summary, the company name, number and address, email contact details and any VAT number. Depending on the type of company in question and the size or nature of the business, additional information may also need to be published.

Terms of Use: It is advisable for operators of websites to have a set of Website Terms of Use which will typically include disclaimers against claims arising from use of the site and from reliance on its content. Links to or from the website should also be covered. If users can upload content to the site, it is important that the Terms of Use also address this and an additional Acceptable Use Policy may also be advisable.

Data protection: If any personal information of visitors is collected through a website, the site should have in place a Privacy Policy setting out all of the information required to be provided to them under the Data Protection legislation including details of their rights in relation to the information collected.

Cookies: If a website intends to use cookies, site visitors need to be informed of this in advance and should have the right and ability to reject all cookies which are not strictly necessary for the operation of the site. Cookies which are not strictly necessary should not be set without the active consent of the visitor. Compliance with these obligations requires appropriate legal notices and also having in place the technology necessary to enable the setting of the cookies actually to be controlled in accordance with the visitor's preferences.

Online Sales: Sales made through a website to consumers are highly regulated. There is information, including details of various important rights of the consumer, which must be provided. Some of the rights depend on what is being sold through the website. It is highly advisable that this information is included in an appropriate set of terms and conditions of sale. If sales through the website are made to both consumers and other businesses, further consideration may be required as to how this situation should best be addressed.

Advertising: Content included on a website should comply with applicable advertising laws and regulations. These may relate to the nature of the product or service being offered by the business or may relate to the target market, for example, where the site is targeted at or involves interaction with children.

If a website is targeted at visitors who are based in countries outside of the UK, this will give rise to other issues including any issues arising in connection with the laws of the countries in question.

Copyright: Operators of websites should ensure that they own or have the right to use all the materials and content shown on the site. This may include, for example, text, drawings, photos, layout and design which, unless copyright has expired, are all likely to be covered by copyright. Generally, the creator of the work in question will own the copyright. A company will not be the creator of any such works, but may own the copyright in them if the work in question was created by an employee in the ordinary course of the employee's work for the company. If the work was produced outside of an employee's normal course of work, this might not be the case. Where works have been commissioned by the website owner, including for example the design of the website, the website owner is likely to have a licence to use the copyrighted work, but will not actually own it unless the copyright has been expressly transferred.

As previously noted, if a website allows visitors to upload content to the site, Terms of Use or an Acceptable Use Policy are needed to provide terms in relation to the use of this material and also to protect against the risk that this content infringes the rights of a third party or might otherwise give rise to a claim against the operator.

Trademarks: Where operators of a site want to display trademarks â„¢ or logos of other businesses, for example, of their customers, the consent of the owner of the logo or mark should first be obtained. Disputes can also arise if the domain name of a website is the same or confusingly similar to a registered or unregistered trade mark of another business.

This article gives a summary only of some of the legal issues which can arise in relation to websites and does not consider, for example, issues relating to contracting for the design, development, maintenance or hosting of a site, collection of payments through websites or sites which operate as platforms.

The article is provided for the purpose of giving general information only. It is not intended to provide, and should not be relied upon as providing, legal advice. If legal advice is required, please contact Julian Milan j.milan@sydneymitchell.co.uk 08081668827 or a member of the corporate team.