Starting your online business can be a daunting task, especially with a very long to-do list before you are actually up and running.
One of the things that can be easily forgotten about is having a solid set of terms and conditions drafted for your website or app. Neglecting this task, which many people deem dry or boring, can result in penalties or fines from a variety of different forces.
Shockingly one in four websites are not offering their customer the correct options when trading online – ultimately breaking the law.
And now that the government is cracking down on businesses that don’t protect their consumers; it is vital to ensure your livelihood is properly protected.
In 2012 Groupon found themselves in hot water with the Office of Fair Trading.
The OFT found that the online discount giant were guilty of ‘widespread’ breaches of consumer protection laws and were forced to change their ways or face court action.
New government research shows 87% of UK consumers feel knowledgeable when choosing and buying goods and services
And 70% of consumers said they know they have the right to return a product bought by phone, post or over the internet.
The government reformed consumer laws and distance trading regulations in June 2014 to make them more accessible and easier to understand.
The Office of Fair Trading closed its doors in April 2014 and replaced by the Competition and Markets Authority, who closely monitor consumer law compliance.
And in order to strengthen these changes further the Consumer Rights Bill, which is currently working its way through Parliament, will outline the standards consumers can and can’t expect when they are purchasing online.
The Bill, once passed, will simplify enforcement powers and make it easier to prosecute rogue traders.
Consumers know their rights and by not acknowledging these, new businesses entering the online marketplace can also attract unwanted attention from Trading Standards.
Trading standards conduct random inspections of websites, carryout test purchases and cancel orders to test distance trading regulations and if they find failures then they have the power to enforce financial penalties.
Trading Standards Scotland Chairman Colin Baxter has warned of the dangers new businesses face when entering the world of online business.
He said: “With the continuing expansion of e-commerce in the UK, new entrants are joining the market every day, many of them small micro-businesses with little experience of consumer law.
“We are concerned about the high levels of non-compliance. It’s a legal requirement to protect online buyers, to ensure fairness and a level playing field for reputable retailers, and to ensure the smooth working of the internet marketplace.”
It is the responsibility of the online business to ensure their website and online offering is reputable. This includes being aware of the responsibilities as an online trader and ensuring the correct procedures are in place before trading online.
By not following the law and communicating the correct legal rights to online consumers, businesses are taking a huge risk.
A company that is serious about customer service and building a sustainable online business will take the right steps to ensure their customers are protected”.