Email and the Law

Complying with online selling

With the complexities of your email marketing systems, the last thing you need to think about during the Christmas rush is compliance with what you feel is the minutiae of legislation. This point of view finds little sympathy with the Office of Fair Trading (OFT). They have written to more than 50 leading retailers mentioning regulations they were not complying with.

Given the gratifying reluctance of the OFT to prosecute minor breaches of the various laws some might think this is little more than a shot across the bows. The opposite might be the case and it could be a promise of a firmer response to come. If it is risky to depend on their benevolence then there are a few steps you can take to lower the odds.

Make procedures for cancellation reasonable.

One problem the OFT highlighted was where the item had to be returned in its original packaging.

Repay the full purchase price.

Delivery costs to the purchaser are part of the price and the return postage is down to them, although you might like to consider refunding this if circumstances merit.

Do not add prices at a late stage.

This is a popular pastime for the travel industry. The price quoted in the email is somewhat different to the final charge.

Comply with all the requirements for websites.

There is no reasonable excuse for failing to have all the necessary details on your website. You need full contact details, including email address, a geographic address, trading name of the company and that of the service provider.

Have a go at complying.

The OFT is more into negotiation than enforcement. If you can show that you have procedures in your email marketing systems to check compliance with the various restrictions then if you failed, advice might well be forthcoming rather than a prosecution. 

It is not just about complying with the law. Most of the regulations cover those things which customers find frustrating. No email address is something which would stop me buying and it is the same with most of the other points raised, so it makes sense to comply.



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