The bare minimum
Even if you do not sell products online, your website must make the following information easily and permanently accessible:
- Company name: The service provider, which may differ from the trading name e.g. “XYZ.com is the trading name of XYZ Enterprises Limited”.
- Geographic address of the service provider.
- Company registration number if applicable.
- VAT number if VAT registered, even if the site does not include online transactions.
- Relevant supervisory authority if services are subject to an authorisation scheme.
- For regulated professions, state any professional body or institution registered with.
- Prices must be clear and in particular state whether they include tax and delivery costs.
- Contact details “including email address”.
Regulation without industry insight
I would recommend you implement all except item 8!
- Informed web designers will tell you that publishing your email address on the internet 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. To protect your inbox whilst staying legal is as much about interpretation of the law as it is compliance. The law was introduced to ensure that “rapid, direct and effective means of communication” is provided. Displaying a phone number resolves this!
So, is a contact form 'effective communication'?
A court has held that a communication is effective if it enables "adequate information to be obtained within a period which meets the legitimate expectations of the customer".
- The means of communication does not need be a direct verbal communication and does not have to be instantaneous.
- An electronic enquiry template form has been deemed as offering a direct and effective means of communication within the meaning of the Directive, where questions sent by customers are answered within a period of 30 to 60 minutes. That's a fairly tight window, so ensure you can access enquiries via a contact form at all times.
- However, when after first contact a customer ceases to have access to the internet, communication by an enquiry template can no longer be regarded as “effective”. Again, in such circumstances, where a non-electronic means of communication is requested, a telephone number satisfies the necessary requirement. So again, ensure you're always on the end of a phone!