Josh (the blog)

Hey there. I’m Josh, a SydneyCanberra-based maker of Internets. I don’t update this very often.


UK website details legislation

As of four days ago, UK companies now have to include certain mandatory business information on their websites & all emails.

The linked article explains really well what this change entails (short version: not much for many websites, as nearly everyone will probably already have these kinds of details if not in their footer then almost certainly on a contact or legal info page), but I’ve still got a few burning questions — mostly to do with fairly inane stuff that only web geeks would think of.

Viral marketing, for example. It’s illegal if you don’t say who you are, so no more viral web marketing in the UK (and EU generally?). Crampin’ style since 2007.

This point from the article is interesting, too:

It is not sufficient to include a ‘contact us’ form without also providing an email address and geographic address somewhere easily accessible on the site. A PO Box is unlikely to suffice as a geographic address; but a registered office address would. If the business is a company, the registered office address must be included.

Say hello, email scraping harvesters. I realise that with filters improving this is theoretically becoming less of a problem, but even so — very few filtering providers are up to the standard of Gmail (usually the poster child for “Feel free to post your email address on the web” experiments), and are unlikely to become such in the near future.

If you’re a sole trader, I imagine you don’t have to list your home address, as you’re not considered a company. IANAL and IANAL who lives in the UK, but if the terminology is the same as in .au (which, given our common heritage, I’d imagine it wouldn’t be far from), that seems to be the logical interpretation.

If the business is a member of a trade or professional association, membership details, including any registration number, should be provided.

That seems… very hazy. If it means entities such as ICAA, that’s nearly fair enough, but for organisations like that membership is individual, not corporate. Same goes for trade unions, etc. The only equivalent I can think of here might be something like CRICOS provider numbers for educational institutions providing services to overseas students — though there are probably other examples one could give.

Perhaps our government has become more liberal than that of the UK, but, even so, it seems a rather odd stipulation. For electricians you might have green licenses and so forth — but, again, that is administered at an individual level, so you’re only really effectively getting this information out of sole traders: it seems unrealistic for larger organisations to publish this type of information.

Given the surprise it seems to have taken people by (the OUT-LAW publication is dated 20th December 2006 at the time of access), it seems unlikely that it will ever be very strictly enforced, and appears to be EU-associated politicking more than any intentioned policy. Some of its stipulations offer something in the way of consumer protection, but, really, if consumers aren’t already on the look out for this sort of information (or lack thereof) when participating in the web, then education in this regard should be far higher on the agenda than legislative measures. But perhaps that’s just my inner liberal getting cranky.