Obligations and Responsibilities of Owning a Website

Obligations and Responsibilities of Owning a Website
Ben Travers, Stephen Scown Solicitors

An increasing number of agricultural businesses are diversifying and operating a website for the first time. Ben Travers, head of intellectual property and information technology at Stephen Scown Solicitors in Exeter explains what you need to think about if you own a website.

While a website can be a powerful marketing tool, many are unaware of the obligations and responsibilities which go with owning a website. Web users are becoming increasingly aware of their rights online so it is important that websites are legally compliant. The range of issues which apply to website owners is vast and can appear daunting.  Yet, with careful thought and clear guidance, the legal pitfalls can be navigated. One of the biggest issues facing web owners is privacy.  The Data Protection Act governs how businesses can collect personal data online (such as email addresses) and what businesses can do with that data.  Whilst the act does not require businesses to have a privacy policy, having an effective policy available on your site and sticking to it, can go a long way towards helping compliance.

Recent changes in the law create further burdens for websites which use cookies (small pieces of data installed on a user’s computer when they visit a site).  Most websites use cookies and must now provide full details of the cookies used and obtain consent from visitors before installing cookies.

Additionally, website owners should consider putting terms and conditions of website use in place.  These are designed to create a contractual relationship between the owner and visitors to the site, helping owners control the use of materials on their site by third parties, control third party links and limit their liability, including liability for any content posted by users such as messages posted on a forum. Such terms also help you to comply with your legal requirements to provide certain information to your visitors about the business operating the site. Businesses must also be aware of their obligations to consumers.  The law gives great protection to consumers buying goods online and compliance with the Distance Selling regulations, which set out the circumstances in which consumers can return goods purchased online, is important.  Ensuring your online dealings with consumers are legally compliant is crucial, not just for avoiding the legal implications of non-compliance, but also for protecting your reputation.

For more information please visit
Stephens Scown LLP Exeter
Curzon House, Southernhay West,
Exeter, Devon EX1 1RS

2 thoughts on “Obligations and Responsibilities of Owning a Website

  1. Like a iceberg – most of the pitfalls are hidden. Many a business I know has just a “cobbled together website” with little thought put to any of these matters. After all, creating a website is not difficult these days given that there are website businesses offering templates etc.

  2. Whilst the Data Protection Act requirements may or may not be know……..
    it is also important to be aware of and compliant with the requirments of the Advertising Standards Authority, whose long established (since 1962) and regularly updated requirments were extended from print and broadcast materials to cover the internet in 2011.
    Website compliance checks are easily available from the ASA.Their copy advice will indicate any issues raised by your marketing communications eg availability of services, price claims and protection of vulnerable individuals etc visit http://www.copyadvice.org.uk/Ad-Advice/Website-audit.aspx.

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