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Companies in the UK must include certain regulatory information on their websites and in their email footers before 1 January 2007 or they will breach the Companies Act and risk a fine.
Every company should list its company registration number, place of registration, and registered office address on its website as a result of an update to the legislation of 1985. The information, which must be in legible characters, should also appear on order forms and in emails. Such information is already required on "business letters" but the duty is being extended to websites, order forms and electronic documents.
The change is being made by a Statutory Instrument that is expected to be passed on Thursday 21st December 2006 to implement a European law, the First Company Law Amendment Directive, into UK law. According to a Department of Trade and Industry spokesperson, the law will take effect on 1 January, one day later than the Directive requires.
The information is likely to appear in the footer of every email sent from a company, to avoid having to decide whether each email amounts to a "business letter" or not. Many companies do this already because the term "business letters" was thought likely to include emails even without this new clarification.
For websites, contrary to the fears of some, the specified information does not need to appear on every page. Again, many websites will already list the required information, perhaps on their "About us" or "Legal info" pages.
The Ecommerce Regulations, passed in 2002, require that certain information is listed on a website, including, "where the service provider is registered in a trade or similar register available to the public, details of the register in which the service provider is entered and his registration number, or equivalent means of identification in that register".
That has been understood as including the company registration number and place of registration. The Ecommerce Regulations also required a note of "the geographic address at which the service provider is established" – which many have taken to mean the registered office address.
However, the wording in the Ecommerce Regulations is ambiguous compared to the new provisions. Further, many organisations' sites currently omit the information, perhaps making the mistake of thinking that the Ecommerce Regulations do not apply to websites that do not sell online (in fact they apply to almost all websites).
Information that must be on your website
The following is the minimum information that must be on any company's website (from OUT-LAW's guide, The UK's Ecommerce Regulations).
Finally, do not forget the Distance Selling Regulations which contain other information requirements for online businesses that sell to consumers (B2C, as opposed to B2B, sales). For details of these requirements, see our guide, The Distance Selling Regulations - An Overview.
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