Is your website content legal?
At the advent of the internet, few could ever have imagined the impact it has had on the world. Today, it is estimated that a third of the planet’s population use the internet on a regular basis. With a medium so powerful, it is no surprise that ‘anyone who’s anyone’now has their own little corner of the World Wide Web.
However, while the extent and accessibility of the internet make impressive reading, it is doubtlessly true that many website owners do not sufficiently address the legality of their website content.
Regardless of the nature and purpose of a website, you should take time to consider the need to restrict liability for the website’s content. Initially, this involves carrying out due diligence and seeking advice as to the specific laws and regulations that will affect the type of site you are setting up. In many cases, it will be possible to comply with such laws and regulations simply by modifying the content, including prominently displayed disclaimers or restricting access.
Websites that offer goods or services should also ensure that they do not give rise to offers that automatically become contractually binding upon acceptance by visitors. Instead, you should design your website on an ‘invitation to treat’basis so that visitors make offers to purchase goods or services which are advertised. In practice, this is achieved by including a clear and prominent statement that all orders are subject to availability and that the business will not be bound unless it formally accepts an order and informs the visitor that it has done so.
It is also important that website owners comply with broader consumer legislation. Such websites should always be careful to compare like with like and make it clear when an opinion is being expressed. Similarly, you are under a legal obligation not to deliberately mislead or confuse consumers and not to discredit or denigrate a competitor’s goods, services or reputation. Having a visible and accessible complaints procedure and amending website content expeditiously, is sound commercial practice for reducing the risk of liability.
In conclusion, ensuring that your website complies with all the relevant laws and regulations can be a challenging process. While the issues above highlight some of the most common pitfalls for many website owners, they are by no means an exhaustive list. As such, website owners should be mindful and seek professional legal advice whenever they are in doubt as to the legality of their website’s content.
For more information on this topic or to discuss any issues raised, please contact me, David Beynon on 01792 529627, e-mail email@example.com, or my colleague Nick Thomas on 01792 529667or email firstname.lastname@example.org.