Growing numbers of businesses are moving online – some as part of an ongoing strategy, others forced to move quickly as a result of the pandemic.

The shift to e-commerce has seen online retailing giants like Boohoo, which has a major operation in Burnley, thrive. In the 10 months to December 31 last year, it revealed a 38 per cent hike in sales.

But it’s not just the big names that are pushing ahead online. Many Lancashire SMEs have accelerated their e-commerce strategies as they look to counter the impact of Covid-19.

And as they make that online move, experts warn they need to be aware of the legal implications that have to be considered.

Alison Chesworth is head of talent at Preston- based e-commerce specialist EKM. It was the  UK and helps businesses generate more than half a billion pounds in sales every year.

She explains that there are legal differences between selling online and traditional sales and adds: “When you own an ecommerce website, the Consumer Contracts Regulations will apply.

“These came into force in 2014, replacing the Distance Selling Regulations, and apply as obviously shopping virtually prevents potential customers from actually seeing products live and in front of them.

“Of course, e-commerce websites and online shops can provide eye-catching product images and very detailed product descriptions, but the shopping experience is different.

“The Consumer Contracts Regulations are there to provide a level of protection for online shoppers and ensure, amongst many other things, that consumers are given clear and detailed information about the products that they could purchase, the right to cancel their order within a given period of time, rights to 

Alison Chesworth

The importance of the Privacy Policy has increased post-GDPR legislation, as this refers to how customer’s information is processed during a transaction.

Alison adds: “E-commerce websites require cookies to function - that is, to allow a customer to select products and add them to a cart before completing their order via a payment gateway.

“But any additional analytical code added to the website also needs to be added into that Privacy Policy too, so that your customers are clear about the nature of the cookies used on your online shop.

“You should also be aware of the Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002. These require various steps and details to be provided when selling goods to another business or consumer over the internet or by email.”

Every online shop also needs to have a minimum of Terms & Conditions and a Privacy Policy on its website in an easy to access location.

Alison says: “The T&Cs cover aspects such as website use, website access, details of jurisdiction and liability. While it is a lot of legal jargon to wade through, it is essential that this information is freely available to your customers.”

“Good examples of analytical code would be things such as Google Analytics, Hotjar, or Facebook Pixel, for example - the use of these needs detailing within your Privacy Policy.

“After your T&Cs and Privacy Policy pages have been completed, I’d also highly recommend creating separate pages for returns and exchanges, and delivery and shipping.

“You need to explain to your customers in plain English your procedures for handling returns, exchanges and faulty items, as well as expected delivery costs and shipping times.”

Alison adds that selling internationally now the UK has left the EU has added extra legal considerations.

She says: “To move products between the UK and non-EU countries may require an EORI number issued by the HRMC. You will also need the relevant declarations and commodity codes.

“There’s also a list of ‘Controlled Goods’, which includes chemicals, military goods, imitation 

“There’s a full list of these controlled goods and more information on the current changes on the website which I highly recommend, as there are different protocols according to the nature of the items being sent and their locations.”

Online shop owners also need to be aware of GDPR regulations and put in place policies to ensure that any processing of customer information is kept securely and restricted.

Alison says: “This may consist of only authorised members of staff being able to access order information in the back end of your website,  data in a restricted location, only accessible by 

When it comes to the e-commerce website,  Alison says: “This is something that is applied to


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