The Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002 (ECR) as amended by the Electronic Commerce (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 apply to all sales online, whether to business customers or consumers. They mean you have to provide certain information to buyers before a contract is made.
Company information that must be supplied under the ECR
The ECR share a central theme with other legislation governing online sales: companies should not hide themselves from purchasers, and should provide as much information to purchasers as possible. The intention is that a buyer should know exactly who is selling the goods. The ECR force all commercial websites to make the following information directly and permanently available to consumers via the website:
- Your company's name, postal address (and registered office address if this is different) and email address
- Your company's registration number
- Your company's VAT number
- The name of any publicly accessible trade register (or similar) with which you are registered, along with your registration number or other means of identification in the register
- Details of any supervisory authority if your service is subject to an authorisation scheme (such as a licence, certification or registration)
- Details of any professional body with which you are registered, any professional titles you hold and whether that title has been granted in the UK or not, and a reference to your professional rules and how they can be accessed
- Details of any industry Codes of Practice that you subscribe to.
Contractual information that must be supplied under the ECR
When it comes to actually going through the contractual process, the requirements for information increase once again and the consumers must be told about:
- The prices, and whether they are inclusive of taxes and delivery costs.
- The steps involved in completing the contract online
- Whether the contract will be stored by you and/or permanently accessible
- The technical means that your site uses to allow consumers to spot and correct errors made while inputting their details prior to the order being placed
- The languages offered to conclude the contract
Your website must also set out your terms and conditions, in a way that allows users to save and print them.
All of this information must be provided before the purchaser selects the product and starts the contractual process. It should be possible to convey it early on in the sale, without deterring users with an unwieldy sales process. The most common route is to bundle as many of these details into the terms and conditions as possible, and ensure that consumers are appropriately directed to read them.