E-Commerce Directive

Under the Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations, the e-commerce regulations, businesses providing information service (any service normally provided for remuneration at a distance by means of electronic equipment for the processing and storage of data and at the individual request of the recipient) must make certain corporate information available to recipients. Any commercial communication must be clearly marked as such and set out on whose behalf it is sent.

The corporate information must be provided in a manner which is easily directly and permanently accessible. This includes

  • corporate name
  • geographical address where established contact
  • contact details including email address
  • registered company number
  • VAT number
  • details of applicable regulator
  • details of professional membership

Under the companies Act, all companies in the UK must identify their company registration number, place of business, registered office and address on all of their websites.  This would be commonly placed in the part “About Us” or “Legal info”.  It does not need to be placed on every page;

Where a service provider sets out prices they must clearly and unambiguously state whether they are inclusive of tax and delivery costs.

Concluding a Contract

Where a contract is to be with a consumer, the service provide must comprehensively, unambiguously and prior to the receipt of the service indicate:

  • the different technical steps to follow to conclude a contract
  • whether or not the contract will be final and whether it will be accessible
  • the technical means for identifying and correcting input errors
  • the language offered for the conclusion of the contract
  • whether it is bound by any codes of conduct

Consumer Sales

There are EU wide regulations which deal with consumer protection in the area of distance selling.   The Distance Selling Regulations are designed to protect consumers who are not physically present with the seller at any time during the sale or transaction.  They cover purchases which make exclusive use of one or more means of distance communications. This would include internet sales, unaddressed printed matter, addressed printed matter, standard letters, press advertising catalogues, telephone with human intervention, telephone without human intervention, video text, email,  fax and teleshopping.

The Distance Selling Regulations apply to distance contracts for the supply of goods and services concluded between a supplier and a consumer. A consumer is an individual acting in a private capacity outside of his trade or business.  A supplier is any business acting in a commercial or professional capacity.  They only apply to transactions between businesses and consumers. Accordingly business to business transactions are not included.

Businesses who undertake distances sales to consumers must give clear and comprehensive prior information to consumers.  The information, must be easily, directly and permanently accessible to the recipient of the service.  The required Information includes:

  • name of service provider together with physical and electronic address
  • where the service provider is registered, details of the public register in which it is registered
  • registration numbers or equivalent means of identification
  • where the service provide is subject to an authorisation scheme, the particulars of the relevant scheme
  • where the services are provided by a member of a regulated profession, details of any professional body or other institution
  • relevant codes of conduct to which the business is subject and information on how they can be consulted electronically;
  • VAT number;
  • whether the contract will be filed and whether it is accessible;
  • languages for conclusion of contract;

Contract Information

Prior to conclusion of a distance contract a consumer must be provided with the following information in a clear and comprehensible manner:

  • identity of the supplier and in the case of contracts requiring payment in advance, his address
  • the main characteristics of the goods or services
  • price of the goods including all taxes
  • delivery costs
  • arrangements for payment, delivery and performance
  •  the existence of the right of withdrawal
  • the cost of using distance communication where it is calculated other than at the basic rate
  • the period for which the offer or price remains valid
  • the minimum duration of the contract in the case of the supply of products or services to be performed recurrently or permanently
  • details in writing about the terms and conditions of the transaction
  • information on after sale service and guarantees

The required information and the terms of the contract must be capable of being permanently stored by the consumer.  Where a consumer orders goods on line, the service provider has to acknowledge receipt of the recipient’s order without delay and by electronic means.  The order and acknowledgement of receipt are deemed to be received when the party to whom they are addressed is able to access them.

Websites must allow customers to go back and correct any mistakes in their order before the order is placed. Once an order is placed electronically receipt must be acknowledged without delay.

In the case of telephone communication, the identity of the supplier and the commercial purpose of the call must be made clear at the beginning of the conversation.

The consumer is entitled to written confirmation by email or confirmation in an available and accessible and durable medium of the information set out above, in good time.  The information should be provided at the latest at the time of delivery, unless it has already been given to the consumer prior to conclusion of the contract in writing or in another durable medium.


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