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Even if you don’t trade online, it’s a legal requirement to publish on your website, certain information.

These EU regulations were brought in to boost consumer confidence. Publish too much personal information online, however, and you leave yourself open to being targeted by fraudsters.

This guide states what information is absolutely necessary.

The Bare Minimum

Your website must make easily and permanently accessible the following:

  1. Company name
    The service provider, which may differ from the trading name e.g. “ is the trading name of XYZ Enterprises Limited”.
  2. Geographic address of the service provider.
  3. Company registration number if applicable.
  4. VAT number if VAT registered, even if the site does not include online transactions.
  5. Relevant supervisory authority if services are subject to an authorisation scheme.
  6. For regulated professions, state any professional body or institution registered with.
  7. Prices must be clear, in particular, state if includes tax and delivery costs.
  8. Contact details “including email address”.

Regulation without industry insight

I recommend you implement all except item 8!

Publishing your email address opens you up to an avalanche of junk email. Spammers send out robot programs to ‘crawl’ millions of websites every day, harvesting email addresses to target.

Prosecution under item 8 is highly unlikely. Protecting your inbox, whilst staying legal is as much about interpretation of the law, as it is compliance. The law was introduced to ensure rapid communication was provided. To explore this stance in more detail, see grey box.

The Spirit of the Law

Review the test case itself: Bundesverband v Deutsche Internet Versicherung 2008.

Service providers must provide details including e-mail address to allow the supplier to be “contacted rapidly and communicated with in a direct and effective manner”.

If you can show that a means of contact was provided, that allows “rapid, direct and effective means of communication”, this should be adequate defence.

The Court further held a communication is effective if it enables adequate information to be obtained within a period which meets the legitimate expectations of the customer.

The Detail

The means of communication need not be a direct verbal communication and does not have to be instantaneous.

In the case, the Court considered an online form offered a ‘direct and effective’ means of communication within the meaning of the Directive.

In this case if the online retailer answered questions, sent by customers, within 30 to 60 minutes this was considered sufficient.

The Caveat

The case then goes to state that if, after first contacting the on-line retailer electronically through its website, a customer ceases to have access to the internet, communication by an enquiry template can no longer be regarded as “effective”.

So, in such circumstances, a telephone number will satisfy this requirement.

Sources: Charles Russell soiicitors (PDF),