With the proposed changes to online advertising rules
some timely advice on how to keep online advertising and website sales copy on the right side of the law may be useful.
Jill Benbow of Keystone Law
advises; “The web is the fastest growing medium and lets you reach a very targeted audience. It also allows you to monitor the success of your advert. There has been a lot written about how to advertise and how to use pay per click, but what should you actually say and not say in your advert? Here are some simple rules to help you keep the right side of the law when writing your own website copy-
You do not have a free rein in relation to the content or arrangement of your websites. Certain details concerning the business must be provided on the site in an easily accessible manner. You must specify your business's trading name and the name of any company it trades through, the names of the directors (or a statement that such names are available for inspection at your registered office), the address of your registered office and your company registration and VAT numbers. You must also make it clear where you can be contacted, by phone (legally you do not have to give a phone number, but can you afford not to?), email, fax etc. and a correspondence address should also be specified if it is different to that of your registered office. It is a criminal offence to miss out these basic details.
The Trade Description Act applies to what you say on your website, just as it would to your paper adverts, as will the consumer protection from Unfair Trading Regulations. Traders must not make commercial communications to consumers, which are:
• Actually misleading (by act or omission);
• Aggressive, i.e., by suggesting that if you do not take this offer up NOW, something terrible is going to happen;
• Accurate; it may well be the best service in its class, but to say so can lead to accusations that you have incorrectly described the service. One common way round this is to refer to survey results or an independent publication, e.g., 'eight out of ten people said it is the best in its class’, Try and stick to the facts, and steer clear of claims you cannot prove;
• Complete; you must give the consumer sufficient information to make an informed transactional decision. An omission can be just as serious as an inaccurate description.
You will need to ensure that all of this information is either in one place, or can be read together, relatively easily, using links or references.
If a buyer of your service argues that a statement that appeared on your website which induced them to buy your service and the statement is subsequently found to be untrue, you are in trouble. Such statements are a representation by you about the service and they need to be accurate. Performance indicators often cause the biggest problem.
Do I really have to comply with these requirements?
are very hot on compliance with the law and have the power to take down your website. Consumers and buyers are often clued up on their rights and won't stand for breaches of their rights. They may sue you and win or report you to Trading Standards. Cases of fraud or obtaining money by deception attract serious civil and criminal penalties. Lastly, and most importantly, in this day and age of rapid information transmission and so much choice, your reputation matters."