Web Design

So you throught the really hard part about Internet Marketing was building your inbound links.  But there are many legal issues and statutory requirements that may impact on your online marketing strategy.

It’s all too common to see some of these rules being overlooked, either deliberately “oh that doesn’t really apply to me” or due to ignorance.  But not knowing the laws surrounding Internet Marketing will not protect you if you get in trouble.  To avoid any confusion, I’ve pulled together some of the best resources online to help you to get it right every time.

Compliance and Your Website

Did you know that you have to include your company information on your website (and in your emails)?  That’s right, it’s not just good practice, it’s actually a legal requirement, as Susan explains in this post on Company Website Statutory Requirements.

Do you have a contact form or newsletter sign up on your website?  Then you must have a data protection statement on your site.

Ever heard of the Disability Discriminations Act (1995)?  The DDA has implications for your website. (psst! If your site is search-engine friendly it is most likely DDA compliant.)

And there are some extra laws for all of you with ecommerce websites to think about.

Email Marketing

There’s a whole host of dos and don’ts when it comes to email marketing, and if you fall on the wrong side of the law you could find yourself with a hefty fine.  The lists of things you’re doing wrong can include:

  • Not including an “unsubscribe” option on your emails
  • … or your company information
  • Sharing or selling emails and other personal information, without a consumer’s explicit consent
  • Not making it clear from the subject line that your email is in fact a form of direct marketing
  • Deliberately offending your recipients

The punishment for these can range from a slap on the wrist to massive fines and a visit from the Office of Fair Trading.  Here are some great resources with more information and advice on the legal issues:

A Lesson on Laws Surrounding Email Marketing

Presentation on Email Marketing (with advice on social media and the Digital Economy Act too) from Melissa Campbell of Distilled.

Low-down on the Data Protection Act from the ICO.

Blogging and Social Media

Yes blogging and social media tools are excellent ways to connect with your customers, but just like any other form of Internet Marketing there are some stringent laws on how you can use them.

Since as far back as 2008 there have been some tough rules about pretending to be a consumer to promote your company via social media.  You might think it’s a great idea to act as a consumer to give yourself great reviews or promote your latest product but when you are landed with a hefty fine you’ll think twice.

These rules may also affect you if you are a blogger who receives money, gifts or anything else in return for reviews.  As a simple guide, if you’re sent a product to review, tell your readers.  That way they have the full story and you know that you are on the right side of the law.

Protecting Your Copyright

So far I’ve talked about how you could end up on the wrong side of the law – but the law can be on your side too.  If someone is stealing your content, you do have rights and you can make them stop.  For full information on how to do this see Susan’s great articles:

Protecting Your Internet Content – with a friendly way to make content stealers stop.

Protecting Your Copyright details the steps you have to take if the offending website owner isn’t playing fair.

Internet Marketing laws can be complex, but if you take the time to review your website and make sure you’re doing everything right you’ll protect yourself from getting in trouble with the law.

If you are concerned about whether your digital marketing strategy is all above board why not ask us to review your website – we can tell you if its fully compliant and offer advice on what to do if it’s not.

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Katie

5 responses to “Internet Marketing and the Law: Legal Issues Affecting You and Your Website”

  1. Dave Smith says:

    Wow Katie- great post – thanks for all these resources, really helpful.

  2. I’m happy to help Dave, but I love hearing compliments all the same so thanks!

  3. Stew Curtis says:

    Katie – would a company based in the UK be able to legally email a company whose details they have found on an online database? The contact is clearly within the public domain for all to see, so surely this is allowed right? Providing the company abided by the above email marketing rules of course.

    Look forward to your thoughts; thanks – Stew

    • Hi Stew

      I think your query has to do with the Data Protection Act, which of course protects the privacy of living individuals. One assumption you could make is that companies are not individuals, and therefore the act does not apply.

      However, your query raises a number of big issues.

      First, it is considered exceptionally bad practice to scrape the Internet for email addresses. You really do want to be emailing companies that have given you permission to market to them. If they haven’t given permission, then you’re sending spam.

      And second, what if the company is a sole trader? Now you are emailing an individual without permission.

      If you really do want to scrape email addresses of companies, can I suggest that you send an initial email inviting them to OPT IN to your mailings (not opt out!) If indeed they do give permission, then you have a solid, prospective client to market to.

      Hope this is helpful!
      Susan Hallam

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