Being online in a pandemic and beyond

Over the last few months many businesses have had to move their operations online, and some have even had to change or expand their existing (online or offline) client base. In the early days of the pandemic, the Government pleaded for manufacturers to change their production lines and start making ventilators. Companies clambered at the doors of Government with offers to make vital PPE for our amazing NHS and social care workers. And small local businesses (like farms and outdoor activity centres) redefined themselves as either (or both) drive-in, or online, food and gardening suppliers!

In the rush to keep their business going and help the community, the last thing on their minds will have been to ensure that they either had contractual terms in place, or adapted existing ones to cater for their new venture.

What should businesses be thinking about?

For those businesses who will continue to offer goods and/or services online, please think carefully about the following:

  1. Do you have terms and conditions in place that govern your relationship with, and therefore your liability to, your customers?
  2. If consumers can order goods from your website, do you provide them with mandatory pre-contract information (e.g., information about their rights to cancel and arrangements for payment, delivery and performance)?
  3. Do you have a privacy notice that sets out what personal information you will collect (e.g., names and addresses) about people who visit your website/use your app, order goods from you or supply goods/services to you?
  4. Does your privacy policy clearly explain how you will use, share and store their personal information?
  5. Do you have a cookie policy that sets out what cookies your website uses and a cookie banner that allows users to choose what cookies you can place on their device?
  6. If you intend to market your goods or services to users of your website/app, have you correctly obtained their consent to do so?
  7. Is your website secure and how do you protect information that is submitted via your website/app (e.g., SSL encryption)?
  8. Do you have terms and conditions in place that deal with access to, and use of, your website/app and its content?
  9. If you are using, or need to use, content which you do not own the intellectual property rights to, do you have a licence from the owner of that content to use and display it on your website/app?
  10. Does your website clearly display your name, contact details, company registration number, VAT number and other key information that has to be displayed?

These are just a few of the questions businesses should be asking themselves. As always, there is no “one-size fits all” approach when operating online.

Why is it important to comply with data protection laws?

In addition, it is important to emphasise that data protection laws changed significantly in May 2018 and there are now substantial fines for businesses who do not comply; up to £17.4m or 4% of the total annual worldwide turnover in the preceding financial year, whichever is higher. See What are the fines for infringement? for further information.

How we can help

You therefore need to ensure that you have the necessary privacy notice(s), cookie policy and security practices in place to protect all personal information you collect (whether online or offline). For further information, please contact us.

Disclaimer: This article is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from taking any action as a result of the contents of this article.