Must I publish an address on my website?

Hello, is it possible for you to advise where I can obtain some information on what I need to provide on my website?

I have been running a business for over a decade. I do NOT sell anything online; my website is only for viewing, a shop window shall we say. I do not collect personal data online. No money is exchanged.

I do not have my full address on my website, as I work from home and was informed by the police not to have my home address on it, as I once had problems with a man who was very unsavory. I have FULL contact with regards to email, phone number where I can be contacted 24/7, so can someone tell if this is okay?

I really don't want my home address on the website, I'm small business, and as a single woman don't want complete strangers knowing where I live. I wish the law would think of these things, as not everyone has a separate address.

I would appreciate some brief advice, thank you.

The short answer to this question is: I don't think you do need to provide an address on your particular website.

The long answer, set out below, is a great illustration of the un-joined-up and over-complicated state of English law in this area.

No general requirement

The starting point is that there is no general requirement in English law to publish an address on a website. There are however lots of different UK statutes and instruments potentially requiring businesses to publish addresses on their websites. Some of this legislation is related to particular fields (eg financial services) which I don't think are relevant to you.

The general legislation that I encounter most commonly in this respect is as follows.

Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002

Regulation 6(1): "A person providing an information society service shall make available to the recipient of the service and any relevant enforcement authority, in a form and manner which is easily, directly and permanently accessible, the following information— … the geographic address at which the service provider is established".

This Regulation only applies if you are providing an "information society service" by means of the website - that is, " any service normally provided for remuneration at a distance, by means of electronic equipment for the processing (including digital compression) and storage of data, at the individual request of a recipient of the service".

Because the website is merely a shop window, it doesn't in my view constitute an information society service, so this Regulation does not apply.

The Companies (Trading Disclosures) Regulations 2008

Regulation 7:

"(1) Every company shall disclose the particulars set out in paragraph (2) on … its websites."

"(2) The particulars are … the address of the company’s registered office … ".

So far as I am aware you are not operating your business through a UK company, and so this Regulation does not apply to you.

Provision of Services Regulations 2009

These Regulations don't mention websites specifically, but if the only contact between a business and its service recipients is through a website, then the information requirements will apply to the website.

Regulation 7 provides as follows:

"(1) The provider of a service must make available contact details to which all recipients of the service can send a complaint or a request for information about the service.

(2) Those contact details must include in particular — (a) a postal address, fax number or e-mail address, (b) a telephone number, and (c) where the service provider has an official address, that address.

(3) In paragraph (2)(c) “official address” means an address which a person is required by law to register, notify or maintain for the purpose of receiving notices or other communications."

Again, because your services are distinct for your website, this does not require anything to be published on your website.

Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2014

These regulations provide that certain information must be given to consumers before the enter into distance or off-premises contracts. That information includes:

"the geographical address at which the trader is established"

I understand that your services are B2C rather than B2B services.  However, whilst this information presumably does need to be provided to your customers, it does not need to be published on the website.

Consumer Rights Act 2015 

This Act is expected to come into force in October.

The provisions regarding pre-contract information (including the provision of address information) merely reinforce those of the Consumer Contracts Regulations.

Additional points:

  • If you have a duty to notify under the Data Protection Act 1998, then your address will be published on the ICO's website, and could be found in that way.
  • Unless you use a privacy service, any address that you use when registering a domain may be published through WHOIS searches.
  • One option for those who must publish a geographic address but want to keep their home address private is to use a business address and mail forwarding service, which can be inexpensive. However, it is not entirely clear that such an address will amount to "the geographical address at which the trader is established". PO Boxes are generally considered not to be geographical addresses.
  • Lots of websites that should publish geographical addresses do not, and I would guess that for a small business the practical risks of not doing so in contravention of the legislation are very modest indeed.

 

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