Can the pack be used for a website selling to customers and allowing other merchants to sell their own products?
The pack is not sufficient for these purposes. One way to structure this set of relationships is to treat the website as a pure marketplace, and differentiate between the website operator's role as marketplace provider and the operator's role as a seller. In respect of the latter role, the operator can be treated as one seller amongst many. If you take this approach, our marketplace terms and conditions (combined with the documents in this pack) may represent a good solution.
What UK legislation do these documents cover?
Some (but not all) of the statutes and regulations that these documents take account of are set out below, in reverse chronological order.
- Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013: These Regulations replaced the distance selling laws, increasing the cancellation period from 7 working days to 14 days, but also offering new protections for traders, providing they comply with the informational and procedural requirements of the Regulations.
- Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003: These Regulations set out the laws concerning cookies, covering both the informational and consent aspects. The Regulations were updated in 2004 and again in 2011.
- Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002: These Regulations implement an EU Directive concerned with various aspects of ecommerce, including information disclosures, online contracting and defences for internet service providers.
- Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999: These Regulations prohibit unfair terms generally. They also include an "indicative and non-exhaustive" list of contract terms which are liable to be considered unfair.
- Contracts (Rights of Third Parties) Act 1999: This Act creates limited exceptions to the "privity" rule in English contract law, in particular granting some non-parties a limited right to enforce contracts.
- Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977: This Act regulates exclusion clauses, ie contractual provisions and provisions in legal notices that seek to exclude or limit the legal liability of a person in some way. To be enforceable, exclusion clauses in B2C contracts subject to the Act must be reasonable.
I'm setting up a very simple web shop with only one product. Do I really need all these documents?
Setting up a web store can be as simple as setting up an account using an online ecommerce service, adding a few products, and pressing "publish". But if you want a web store offering unique and complex functionality, selling tens of thousands of products and containing whole libraries of custom content, you can spend thousands of hours and millions of pounds before the first customer clicks "order". The legal work involved in making a simple web store comply with English law may not, however, be greatly less than the legal work involved in making a complex web store comply.
What are the reasons for this?
- First, commercial regulation deals mostly with abstractions. For instance, it tends to regulate the sale of products in general, rather than the sale of particular types of products (although there are exceptions, such as firearms and pharmaceuticals).
- Second, where the law does deal with specific circumstances, it will (naturally) tend to do so where those circumstances are commonplace.
Simple websites are just as much subject to regulations governing the sale of products in general, and the offering of common website functionality, as are complex websites.
There is however a positive side to this legal uniformity. For much the same reasons, a well-drafted set of template documents can be a massive help in preparing the legal documentation for a website, even if they are not specific to the products being sold, or the exact functionality available on the website. This pack of documents is intended to help with typical issues that will face an ecommerce website owner selling products to both businesses and consumers.
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