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Selling via a website


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National Consumer Agency guide for businesses on their legal obligations if they sell online to consumers - from eCommerce regulations to data protection. …

National Consumer Agency guide for businesses on their legal obligations if they sell online to consumers - from eCommerce regulations to data protection.

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  • 1. NCA guide for businesses Selling via a website An overview of the key rules if you sell online to consumers
  • 2. Selling online to consumers
    • Do you sell products or services to consumers through a website?
    • If you do, no matter how big or small your site, you must meet certain legal obligations
    These rules apply whether you are a large established company or just starting out
  • 3. The obligations include…
    • General requirements under consumer law
    • Distance selling rules
    • eCommerce regulations
    • Data protection
    • Corporate compliance
  • 4. General requirements of consumer law
    • Under consumer law:
    • Products or services for sale must be of a certain standard
    • What you say about them must be true
    • You must treat consumers fairly
    • In Ireland, these general requirements are contained in the Sale of Goods and Supply of Services Act and the Consumer Protection Act
  • 5. Distance selling
    • Specific rules also apply to "distance selling”
    • This is where you take orders remotely from consumers (rather than face-to-face in a shop, office, market etc)
    • Distance selling includes sales via your website, email, phone or fax
  • 6. EU's distance selling rules
    • The distance selling regulations:
    • Apply to business-to-consumer transactions (but not business-to-business)
    • Specify certain information you must give consumers before the contract is enforceable
    • Allow consumers to cancel orders within a specific period, and require you to inform them how they can do this
  • 7. In a nutshell…
    • … these rules give consumers additional protection on top of general consumer law
    • Your customers do not need to be given a physical agreement on paper to have a distance contract with you
  • 8. Information requirements
    • Your ordering and delivery process must give visitors key information about:
    • Your business
    • Their order
    • The delivery costs involved
    • How to cancel
  • 9. The cooling off period #1
    • In a physical shop … consumers don’t get an automatic “cooling off” period after buying goods/services
    • In online sales … a cooling off period for consumers is a major requirement
  • 10. The cooling off period #2
    • During the cooling off period your customers can cancel their orders – without a reason
    • You must give them a "cooling off" period of at least seven working days
    • You also have obligations in situations where ordered goods/services are unavailable
  • 11. Some goods and services are exempt
    • The cooling off period does not apply to:
    • Customised products (e.g. T-shirt with customer’s personal slogan on it)
    • Perishable goods
    • Accommodation (hotels, guesthouses etc) for specific dates
  • 12. EU’s eCommerce regulations
    • Under eCommerce regulations you must give further specific information to customers
    • Some goods and services are excluded from the distance selling regulations , but the eCommerce regulations may still apply
    • For information requirements, see guides on
  • 13. Data Protection Act
    • Your site will need a privacy statement if you collect personal data such as…
    • In order forms, feedback forms etc
    • Using cookies or other tracking
    • Users’ IP or email addresses
    • See Data Protection Commissioner’s site for details
  • 14. Spam and unsolicited calls
    • Your staff have legal responsibilities in terms of “spam” – sending emails, text messages or direct marketing phone calls to people who: 
    • Are not already your customers or
    • Have not consented to be contacted by you in this way
  • 15. Maximum penalties for spam
    • € 50,000 for an individual
    • € 250,000 or 10% of turnover for a body corporate
  • 16. Corporate compliance
    • Under Office of Director of Corporate Enforcement rules, limited companies must give certain information on websites and in order forms (including ones sent by email):
    • Your company name
    • Company registration number
    • Registered office
  • 17. Company registration details
    • Many websites give "footer" links at the bottom of their pages to a "Legal Information" or "Company Registration" type page with this corporate information
    • You don’t need to meet these requirements if you are a sole trader
    • But it is still good practice to reassure potential customers about your business status
  • 18. Checklist for your online shop
    • Check whether your website meets the following five requirements…
  • 19.
    • 1. Does it provide key information before and during the ordering process, such as a geographical address?
  • 20.
    • 2. Does it give customers the option to cancel an order - and information on how to do this?
  • 21.
    • 3. Does it meet data protection requirements about the personal data you collect, how you use/store it?
    • Do your staff know the dangers of sending spam ?
  • 22.
    • 4. Does your site have a privacy statement ?
  • 23.
    • 5. Does it display company registration details (if you are a limited company)
  • 24. For more information…
    • … check our Business Guides on