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E-Commerce and the Law

Friday, 21 September 2012

On-line shopping continues to find favour among consumers despite high streets suffering through the recession. The ease of shopping from the comfort of a chair means that even die-hard shoppers increasingly treat themselves to online retail therapy. Consumers are spoilt for choice when it comes to the types of offerings available. High fashion is just clicks away from online supermarkets and second-hand e-Bay sellers.

In turn, the ease of becoming an online seller has created a new wave of enterprising virtual shopkeepers. When using established sites like e-Bay, the structure of the sales process means that many of the legal requirements confronting sellers are taken care of. There are still some issues that require attention however.

Individuals and companies setting up their own websites to sell products or services need to exercise greater caution; particularly when selling to consumers.


The most important legislation for regulating e-commerce has come from the EU. The Electronic Commerce Directive 2000 sought to regulate e-commerce in the internal market of the EU. It was implemented in the UK by the Electronic Commerce Regulations 2002.

The Regulations set out the rules for conducting electronic transactions with consumers. They take into account the rights of consumers and set out the obligations required of sellers to protect those rights. Legislators sought to balance the facilitation of electronic trading with the protection of consumer rights.


Online sellers must ensure that they provide certain information to consumers including:

  • Their name
  • The geographic address at which the seller is established
  • Contact details such as an email address
  • If registered in a trade, details of the registration
  • If in a registered profession, details of the professional institution and the registration
  • Their VAT number, if applicable

In addition, online sellers must follow the correct procedure to ensure that an individual transaction is valid. If the buyer is a consumer and not a commercial buyer who has agreed to other terms then, before an order is placed, the seller must:

  • Inform the buyer of the technical steps required to conclude the contract
  • State whether or not the concluded contract will be filed by the seller and whether it will be accessible
  • The technical means for correcting errors before placing an order
  • The languages offered to conclude the contract

Once an order has been placed a seller must acknowledge receipt without undue delay and provide information on how to amend errors in the order made.

If you have any questions about how e-commerce law can affect you or your business Rollingsons has experienced lawyers who can assist you. For more information please contact James Crighton via e-mail or by telephone on 0207 611 4848.