In short, a new law, in force from 1st January 2007, amends the Companies Act 1985 to extend its provisions on 'business letters' to websites and e-mail. The new requirements overlap with the E-commerce Regulations of 2002, but introduce new requirements for your e-mails.
Every company should list its company registration number, place of registration and registered office address on its website as a result of an update to the legislation of 1985. The information, which must be in legible characters, should also appear on order forms and in e-mails. Such information is already required on 'business letters' but the duty is being extended to websites, order forms and electronic documents.
The following is the MINIMUM information that must be on any company's website (from OUT-LAW's guide, The UK's E-commerce Regulations http://www.out-law.com/page-431). We should have a checklist to ensure that our clients are aware of this minimum information that needs to be published on a site. It should also form part of the Analysis process as it could be decided to publish some of this information on each page footer, or in the Contact Us section.
* The name, geographic address and e-mail address of the service provider. The name of the organisation with which the customer is contracting must be given. This might differ from the trading name. Any such difference should be explained - e.g. "Glasgow Chamber of Commerce is the trading name of Glasgow Chamber of Commerce."
* It is not sufficient to include a 'Contact us' form without also providing an e-mail address and geographic address somewhere easily accessible on the site. A PO Box is unlikely to suffice as a geographic address; but a registered office address would. If the business is a company, the registered office address must be included. Providing an e-mail address is something we've tended to avoid because of e-mail spamming concerns, however Struan says that all sites must contain an e-mail address even if it is liable to be harvested and spammed.
* If a company, the company's registration number should be given and, under the Companies Act, the place of registration should be stated (e.g. "Glasgow Chamber of Commerce is a company registered in Scotland with Company Number RC000197.")
* If the business is a member of a trade or professional association, membership details, including any registration number, should be provided.
* If the business has a VAT number, it should be stated, even if the website is not being used for e-commerce transactions. This is an important point, because virtually all websites are regarded as trading online. The E-commerce Regulations 2002 refer to an "information society service." This is defined as "any service normally provided for remuneration at a distance, by means of electronic equipment for the processing (including digital compression) and storage of data, at the individual request of a recipient of the service." This broad definition of e-commerce therefore includes information only services such as ourselves. Therefore, all our commercial clients are affected by these regulations.
* Prices on the website must be clear and unambiguous. Also, state whether prices are inclusive of tax and delivery costs.
The upshot is that our e-mail footer should include something like "Glasgow Chamber of Commerce is a company registered in Scotland with Company Number RC000197. Registered office: 30 George Square, Glasgow G2 1EQ" if the e-mail is a 'business letter'. What is, or is not, a business letter can be difficult to judge so most companies will add this to a standard footer for all e-mails.
OUT-LAW has a guide on e-mail notices which is also worth drawing clients' attention to http://www.out-law.com/page-5536. It suggests that both Confidentiality and Disclaimer notices are worth publishing on all e-mail messages although their actual legal effectiveness is less clear.
The above guidelines are only the minimum requirements. Sites involved in B2C consumer have to adhere to the Distance Selling Regulations which contain other information requirements for online businesses that sell to consumers (B2C, as opposed to B2B, sales). For details of these requirements, see OUT-LAW's guide, The Distance Selling Regulations - An Overview at http://www.out-law.com/page-431
The information on this page is required by the Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002.
Glasgow Chamber of Commerce is a company registered in Scotland with Company Number RC000197. Our VAT number is 259 9065 16.
30 George Square
Tel: 0141 204 2121
Fax: 0141 221 2336