How do I ensure that my business complies with the E-Commerce Regulations?

The Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002

The Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002 came into force in August 2002 and implement the European Union’s E-Commerce Directive into UK law.

The reason for the EU Directive was in order to achieve clarification and harmonisation of the rules concerning on-line business throughout the European Union and also to improve the situation for consumers throughout the European Union.

Due to the internal market brought about by the free movement of trade, goods and services it is imperative that consumers throughout the European Union are provided with the same kind of protection.

What businesses do the E-Commerce Regulations apply to?

The Regulations make reference to an “information society service” defining it as “any service normally provided for remuneration at a distance, by means of electronic equipment for the processing (including digital compression) and storage of data, at the individual request of a recipient of the service.”

The UK Government Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has stated that it is not restricted to selling online or by other electronic means but this also includes offering for sale, i.e. advertising, online or by other electronic means. 

Consequently the following are covered by the Regulations:

  • Business that sell goods or services to businesses or consumers over the internet, or by email or by text messages
  • Businesses that advertise on the internet, by email or by text messages
  • Business that convey or store electronic content for customers or provide access to a communications network

Direct marketing by telephone or by fax is not covered by the E-Commerce Regulations.

If my website is based in the UK but sell to other Member States which legislation applies to me?

Country of Origin Principle

The basic country of origin principle is that if a website is based in the UK then the only legislation that it needs to follow is that of the UK meaning even if the website sells into other European Union Member States the law of those states will not need to be followed.

There are however certain qualifications to this principle.


Consumer Contracts

EU law states that when concerned with selling to consumers a website must comply with the consumer legislation in each and every European Union Member State which they sell their products into.

Further exceptions

The following are also exceptions to the country of origin principle:

  • Copyright laws
  • Electronic money (E-money)
  • Unsolicited email – commonly known as Spam

Are there any benefits for the country of origin principle?

In the UK for example the retail laws are much more lax to those in other European Union Member States in relation to such things as promotion.

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For more information on:

  • What Requirements do the E-Commerce Regulations make on businesses?
  • Information Requirements
  • Contracting Online
  • Orders placed online