Online shops and consumer law – what you need to know in 2015

There were big changes to the law covering online shops and consumer rights in 2014 – and many online shops are breaking the law and don’t know it.

The new laws demand consumers get more information and rights than before, and for the first time imposed legal standards for online shops, and penalties for those who don’t comply.

When was the last time you checked to see if your shop complies with the new laws?

Consumer rights law 2015 – the basics

We’ve put together a quick guide that covers the basics, but if you want to be sure your shop complies we recommend you see a specialist lawyer.

This short summary will give an idea of what’s required and the infographic below adds a wider context.

Information you provide

You have to be upfront about everything, especially:

  • Provide full contact information, including your address and a non-premium phone number
  • Provide information on all payment options, your returns policy and delivery charges before checkout, including any extra charges
  • Provide receipts including all of the above

shopping cart photo

Everything must be in clear, easy to understand language, with no hidden charges or other shady practices such as automatically adding products to shoppers’ carts are all banned.

Much of this is common sense if you want anyone to buy from you, but it’s amazing how many online shops still don’t have this information, and it’s one of the main reasons why online shops fail.

Returns and cooling off period

In short, a customer can return a product bought at your shop for any reason, within 14 days of receiving it – until last year it was seven days.

You must have a simple, clear policy on returns and things like who pays for postage, as well as a returns form and these must be easily found on your website.

The rules are quite detailed on how this should be done, and there are exceptions for things like perishable goods and personalised goods.

Who do the new laws apply to?

The law applies to anyone who sells anything online, from physical products, to e-books, to appointments, courses and subscriptions. Selling online means where transaction takes place on a website.

The rules, especially for subscription and membership sites, are very complex and need to be looked at in depth. There are links to resources at the bottom of the page.

This infographic comes courtesy of Reflect Digital, on behalf of their client Waterfront Solicitors

Consumer Rights law UK and online shops infographic

Where to find out more about the Consumer Rights Directive

This post is only intended to provide a flavour of the law and the main points you need to look at and should NOT be taken as legal advice.

If you want to know the full detail, you’re going to have to do your homework and we strongly recommend you do, so here are some resources.

Official guidance from the EU and from the UK Government

The EU guidance document (in PDF format) is a massive 79 pages!

The UK Department for Business Innovation and Skills guide is a mere 26 pages: Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation, and Additional Charges) Regulations (PDF format)

If you still need help with how to comply

Then ask us for help. We can audit your site pointing out areas for attention.

Contact us to find out more.

Website contact forms: Why you must keep them short

Screenshot of contact form

Ever given up on an online transaction – like filling in a form – because it took too long? You and just about everyone else.

Web contact forms play a big part in every day web use. If your business has a website, chances are there is at least one contact form on it.

Many people visit business websites to get a phone number, but others will want to contact you using your form.

But instead of making it easy for people to contact you, that contact form could be acting as a barrier.

Are you asking for too much information?

Screenshot of contact form
Do you really need to know all that?

Often businesses and organisations use contact forms as a way of prioritising how quickly to get back to them – or whether to respond at all.

Sometimes forms ask for totally irrelevant information, or at least information that isn’t needed at this early stage.

But if you want potential new customers to contact you via your website, you need to make it as easy as possible for them, and that means asking as few questions as possible.

You may have to deal with more people you can’t help, but form submissions will rise too, as will the number of conversions.

There have been plenty of studies that back this up.

Why keeping forms short helps sales

Holiday company Expedia discovered it was losing $12 million in sales thanks to one extra form field on their website. The field asked for the visitor’s company and people filled it in wrongly, causing the transaction to fail.

A study by Kevin Hale, co-founder of online forms company Infinity Box Inc showed that site visitors are more likely to fill out shorter forms because they require less effort. The number of questions on a form correlates closely with the rate at which people abandon the form.

And a study by US web company Imaginary Landscape showed how reducing the number of fields in their forms from 11 to four resulted in a 160% increase in forms being submitted and a 120% increase in their conversion rate.

The smaller 4-question form resulted in a significantly higher number and ratio of submitted forms.  In addition, the quality of the submissions remained the same, even with the reduction in submitted information.

Also, the quality of submissions stayed the same.

How to keep your website forms short and efficient

Ask for essential information only – only what you absolutely need to progress.

On a simple contact form this often need be no more than a name and a means of contact – an email address or phone number, of preferably both.

Once you have these then it’s all you need, though it helps to have a comments form that people can fill in if they like.

If you are looking to trim an existing form then ask whether everything you are asking for is really necessary for a first contact. Do you really need to ask for company information? You will find it out soon enough.

More information

ZDNet: Expedia on how one extra data field can cost $12m

Six Revisions: 10 tips for optimizing web form submission usability

Smashing Magazine: An Extensive Guide To Web Form Usability

Inman News: Increase online conversion rates

Imaginary Landscape: Contact Form Case Study

Neil the Knit – Web Shop

Neil the Knit logo by Moghill Web Services

The Project

We were asked to build the first ever website and online shop for Neil, who has spent many years selling wools and yarns at exhibitions around the UK.

He wanted a way for his customers to buy from him when not at a show, and a new, fresh branding to stand out from the crowd and he wanted a company he could deal with in plain English.

[caption id="attachment_1065" align="alignright" width="375"]Neil the Knit web yarns and knitting pattern shop designed by Moghill Web Services Neil the Knit web yarns and knitting pattern shop[/caption]

What Moghill did

We took an original idea of Neil’s and worked it into a logo for an online shop with Paypal integration.

Neil was also clear that the shop should be easy to use and clearly laid out so we used a web shop with a simple interface and a one page checkout.

The shop began with around 300 products but we have worked with Neil to expand it beyond 500 products with yet more planned.

We also produced a range of branded products for Neil, from business cards to environmentally friendly cotton bags.

Visit the website: www.neiltheknit.co.uk

What they said

Neil Morris, owner, said: “I have found Fiona and Patrick to be professional, very helpful, honest and approachable.

“Their setting up of the web site has run very smoothly and deadlines were met.

“They also spoke in a jargon free language and my “idiot sheet” is clear. I look forward to working with them both in the future.”

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