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Companies to update websites and email footers before 2007

In an effort to attempt to add clarity to business communications and transactions, the British government have amended law so that it is required of businesses to provide certain company details on company websites and within email signatures:

“Companies in the UK must include certain regulatory information on their websites and in their email footers before 1 January 2007 or they will breach the Companies Act and risk a fine.

Every company should list its company registration number, place of registration, and registered office address on its website as a result of an update to the legislation of 1985. The information, which must be in legible characters, should also appear on order forms and in emails. Such information is already required on “business letters” but the duty is being extended to websites, order forms and electronic documents.”

However, as usual with these things, the British government have managed to go and fluff the issue and get wrong what could have been a really nice, clear piece of legislation.

In doing so, we’re again reminded of just how out of touch the legislators are with current affairs and current technological practices:

“The name, geographic address and email address of the service provider. The name of the organisation with which the customer is contracting must be given. This might differ from the trading name. Any such difference should be explained – e.g. ‘XYZ.com is the trading name of XYZ Enterprises Limited.’”

So we’re required to gift our email addresses to spam merchants, are we? How nice!

Needless to say, this is just plain daft, and I’m sure I’m not the only one to spot this.

There is a way around this: by placing the email address into the website as a graphic, you’re making things a little more difficult for the spambots. But why should I? As a business owner, why should I have to do things like this?

And to some extent, the same thing applies to the registered address of a business, too.

There are certain parties that I elect not to share or even confirm such information with because I have doubts over their ethics, their morality and their business practices.

And in times like this, when individuals and businesses are having their identities stolen, what does the British government choose to do? Force businesses to hand those details over on a plate.

I can count the number of times I’ve been asked for my company registered number on one hand. And for those that might actually require that information, would a quick visit to Companies House not do the trick?

However, setting my seething contempt to one side for a second, here is the legislative requirements in full:

Information that must be on your website

The following is the minimum information that must be on any company’s website (from OUT-LAW’s guide, The UK’s Ecommerce Regulations).

  • The name, geographic address and email address of the service provider. The name of the organisation with which the customer is contracting must be given. This might differ from the trading name. Any such difference should be explained – e.g. “XYZ.com is the trading name of XYZ Enterprises Limited.”

It is not sufficient to include a ‘contact us’ form without also providing an email address and geographic address somewhere easily accessible on the site. A PO Box is unlikely to suffice as a geographic address; but a registered office address would. If the business is a company, the registered office address must be included.

  • If a company, the company’s registration number should be given and, under the Companies Act, the place of registation should be stated (e.g. “XYZ Enterprises Limited is a company registered in England and Wales with company number 1234567”)
  • If the business is a member of a trade or professional association, membership details, including any registration number, should be provided.
  • If the business has a VAT number, it should be stated – even if the website is not being used for e-commerce transactions.
  • Prices on the website must be clear and unambiguous. Also, state whether prices are inclusive of tax and delivery costs.

Finally, do not forget the Distance Selling Regulations which contain other information requirements for online businesses that sell to consumers (B2C, as opposed to B2B, sales). For details of these requirements, see our guide, The Distance Selling Regulations – An Overview.

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By Wayne Smallman

Wayne is the man behind the Blah, Blah! Technology website, and the creator of the Under Cloud, a digital research assistant for journalists and academics.

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