Make sure your online start-up complies with consumer law with Business Companion

Thinking of starting a business online? Or maybe you have a side hustle that’s taking on a life of its own? Then you’re in good company. A recent study by FreeAgent revealed that 64 per cent of British adults have plans to start their own business in the future, while insurance giant Aviva has discovered one in five of us have started a side hustle since 2020.

Despite the challenges businesses are facing at present, a new generation of entrepreneurs is emerging as people look to create a new lifestyle or a new income stream to supplement their main job. And increasingly, thanks to the internet, these ventures are being launched online. In this digital age, often no physical shop front is needed to sell goods, skills and services.

Although starting a business and trading has been revolutionised by the internet, consumer laws and obligations still apply. And making sure your venture stays on the right side of the law is more complex than many realise.

Just like traditional brick and mortar operations, online start-ups need to understand all their obligations to ensure they trade fairly, protect their customers and avoid penalties for breaching consumer law. This is why Business Companion, a free online resource published by the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) and backed by the Government, has created a new guide to Starting an Online Business.

The resource is designed to give businesses and individuals an accessible and easy-to-understand introduction to the UK’s consumer and trading laws.

Structured in easily digested sections, the guide explains the differences between selling goods online as a business or as an individual and explores the different obligations that must be adhered to under consumer protection law.

In the ‘Am I in business?’ section, the guide discusses how actually being ‘in business’ is defined in law. And an easily referenced flowchart is included to walk you through the different circumstances and what you need to do to comply with the relevant laws. There’s also a very useful FAQ section.

Not only is it invaluable information for an online start-up, but if you’re an individual selling items through an online marketplace such as eBay or Instagram, once you reach a certain scale, you could be considered to be a business. Consumer law will then apply to your activities.

Once you’ve established the nature of your venture, the second section of the guidance takes you through what you need to do next, covering the creation of terms and conditions and areas of legal compliance.

Part three of the guide discusses the model terms that can be used in contracts for selling to consumers online. The resource explains why contract terms are important and provides terms that can be used as a template by traders to help ensure they comply with consumer protection law.

This essential resource is available in website format and as a downloadable PDF booklet. Starting an Online Business is a must-have guide for anyone who requires quick, reliable and up-to-date answers to a query about the nature of their business and their legal obligations. As with all the information available on Business Companion, it is written by consumer law experts in plain English – and it’s free!

About Business Companion

Business Companion is a free online resource published by the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) with the support of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). It provides businesses of all sizes and across all sectors with expert guidance on a wide range of consumer protection law issues.

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