For any business that sells goods over the internet, it is possible that at some point an online marketplace such as Amazon will become a viable outlet for reaching new customers.
The benefits of using online marketplaces are persuasive; their scale and reach can give your business the power to grow quickly and venture into territory not previously accessible.
But doing business via online marketplaces also brings with it rules and regulations that are useful to understand, and are important to comply with. Most of these relate to your responsibilities and obligations towards your customers.
For example, when doing business through an online marketplace it is important to ensure that your terms and conditions around delivery and returns are clear, accurate and up-to-date.Many online marketplaces will have their own code of conduct in this area to which your business, as a third-party retailer, must adhere to in order to maintain membership. But there are also legal duties which are separate from, and transcend, the internal policies of such sites.
Business Companion is a free-to-use resource produced by the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) which sets out in plain English business compliance issues across a whole range of topics. It is designed to be an authoritative reference point for companies that are keen to comply with the law, but sometimes find it difficult to stay on top of new developments in legislation. Because it is a relatively new phenomenon, online commerce particularly is an area in which the law can sometimes change rapidly.
In addition to the information and guidance available on its site – in both easily digestible and more comprehensive formats – Business Companion has recently published a booklet specifically about online marketplaces, so all the key information for businesses can be accessed in one handy and easily accessible resource.
This guide covers the main legislation relevant to online marketplaces – the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 (CCRs) – and additionally refers to the following legislation:
- Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002 (ECR)
- Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (CPRs)
- Alternative Dispute Resolution for Consumer Disputes (Competent Authorities and Information) Regulations 2015
- Alternative Dispute Resolution for Consumer Disputes (Amendment) Regulations 2015
- Consumer Rights Act 2015 (CRA)
- EU Regulation (EU) 2018/302 on addressing unjustified geo-blocking and other forms of discrimination based on customers’ nationality, place of residence or place of establishment within the internal market
- Geo-Blocking (Enforcement) Regulations 2018
It also lays out the requirements of what information must be provided to a customer prior to a sale in orderto ensure that consumers are able to make informed choices when shopping online. Setting out this information clearly is also of benefit to your business, as it is likely to help prevent any disputes arising further down the line. The information required includes:
- The identity and contact details of your business
- A description of the items on offer
- The price, including all taxes, of goods for sale
- Delivery costs
- The total monthly costs of any subscription contracts
- Arrangements for payment and delivery
- Details of any complaints-handling policy
- Details about the existence of the right to cancel
While much of the rules around online marketplaces cover the kinds of thing that any responsible business should be doing as a matter of course – accurately describing the goods it sells, for example – it is invaluable to have the facts laid out in one place, and in a format accessible to you and your colleagues.