On my last post regarding the new Consumer Protection laws that came into force 26th May, I had to preface the post that I am not a lawyer, and effectively just speculate on how they might affect online marketing.
Fortunately Susan Singleton, one of the UK’s leading experts on online marketing law, dropped by and left a comment…
I have been doing quite a bit of work on these regulations including putting on a conference with the UK Government representative who has been drafting and advising them – we are running it again on 11th June (www.singlelaw.com)â€¦.pause there and laugh because on 26 May when the UK version of the regulations are in force I will not be allowed to do that – merge the comment with some “advertorial” or subtle or not so subtle plugs for a service or product.
It will be a criminal offence but probably used as a last resort for persistent offenders.
A disclaimer will not work but if someone is outside the jurisdiction and happy to avoid holidays in the UK in future they may be able to avoid the strong arm of European Justice I suppose.
Concerns in the UK have been over issues such as are “buy one get one free ” (BOGOF) offers still okay – yes they are. Being careful however to make sure what is “free” is definitely free. Issues over conduct of salesmen who go door to door -so training for staff is useful under the new regulations. A couple of companies have asked me to do some training in house on the regulations. Also viral marketing is likely to be a problem under the regulations. The Government has issued guidance and also updated its general guidance on “Price indications” so anyone interested in how this affects pricing of goods should have a look at that too.
Since then I have done lots of research on the new laws, and Susan is the leading authority – I am not quite sure where she finds the time. She runs her own legal practice, consults many leading corporations in the UK, speaks at legal conferences on a frequent basis, and has 5 kids, many of which are still at school.
She has also listed as an author of 30 books, though a few of them were a joint effort. We are not talking ebooks, but real hard or soft cover books stocked by legal book specialists, Amazon, and every bookstore in between.
As Susan mentioned in her comment, she is holding a conference on 11th June which may be of interest
Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008
Business Protection from Misleading Marketing Regulations 2008
Wednesday 11 june 2008, London EC2
9.30am â€“ 12.45pm (3 hours CPD)
From 26 may the new unfair trading regulations make major changes to the law on advertising and marketing. This half day course provides a comprehensive examination of the regulations
What they mean for your business
How advertisements are affected
What salesmen can say
Enforcement, potential fines and jail sentences
(1) Susan Singleton, Solicitor, Singletons, Chairman and speaker
(2) Peter deft, Berr (DTI) representative, who has responsibility for the new regulations
Susan Singleton is a well known commercial and competition lawyer running her own practice, Singletons solicitors. Author of 30 books she is a frequent speaker in the consumer law field and MONTHLY contributor to consumer law today and other publications. She has been writing and advising on the regulations since their origins as a draft eu directive.
9.30am the consumer protection from unfair trading regulations 2008 and business protection from misleading marketing regulations 2008 â€“ comprehensive examination of the new provisions in force from 26 may
Prohibition on unfair trading practices
Protection for vulnerable consumers, marketing to children and the like
List of prohibited practices which are unfair – fake free offers, bait advertising, inertia selling etc
Practical guidance to avoid breach of the law
Repeal of principal provisions of legislation as diverse as major parts of the trade descriptions act 1968, consumer protection 1987, control of misleading advertisements regulations 1988 and the fraudulent mediums act 1951
Penalties for infringement
11.20am view from The Department for Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform
12 noon detailed question and answer session
12.30pm chairmanâ€™s closing remarks
12.45pm close of conference
Lion Court Conference Centre, 25 Proctor Street, London WC1V 6NY, Tel 020 7067 1126
Â£250 per delegate + vat = Â£293.75
(10% discount for each second and subsequent delegate)
(in-house: this course is also available in-house on request)
COURSE NOTES AND FREE LEGAL ADVICE VOUCHER: All delegates receive a voucher for 30 minutesâ€™ free legal advice from singletons and comprehensive pack of notes including copies of the regulations and related materials
Delegates wishing to email questions and answers for consideration at the Q&A session in advance should email them to email@example.com
Singlelaw, Tel 020 8866 1934 fax 020 8866 6912 firstname.lastname@example.org www.singlelaw.com
Unfair trading regulations 11 JUNE 2008 (AM)
Delegate Name (s):
I enclose my cheque for Â£_____ payable to e s singleton
(10% discount for second and subsequent delegates)
— Post to Singlelaw, The Ridge, South View Road, Pinner HA5 3YD
A copy of this information with booking form can be grabbed here where I have posted it as a Google Doc
This Affects Me
Ever time I write an article promoting an affiliate product, I always have this in the back of my mind.
As an example I have been using quite explicit disclosure where free tools or content might be looked on as being “business to consumer” – if something is for making money online, it is business to business, but if something I am promoting could possibly be used by a consumer, such as an SEO tool, in my own mind I feel I have to be much more specific in my disclosure, even if that costs me in income, and I am sure it does.
I feel Google might even be crossing the line with their CPA based promotions for Firefox with Google Toolbar
It is important to look at both the intent and letter of the law – is something really free?
Most certainly these laws will have the biggest effect on those in the health market, and possibly their affiliates.
I dropped the ball a little on this.
This is a little short notice, but well worth while for anyone in the London area interested in safeguarding their online business, or that of their clients.
If you have legal advice on retainer, it might be worth suggesting your advisors attend… at their expense ;)
It isn’t actually that expensive… Susan typically charges Â£250 / hr for her consulting time… based on my experience she is under charging – during one major legal battle I was involved with 6 years ago we were paying a similar rate, though that was with a large legal firm.
Thus the bonus for attending, 30 mins or Â£125 of consultation time is very worthwhile.
One of the reasons why I am posting this is really to gauge interest – I receive lots of search traffic on legal matters regarding this, and other topics such as si3429.
Based upon the number of UK marketers who are still not conforming to the requirements of si3429, and the amount of self-promotional comments I still receive… and promptly delete, there seems to be a distinct lack of understanding.
At the same time, not everyone can afford to retain a qualified lawyer, especially a specialist in internet law as it applies to companies based in the UK or Europe.
The internet however gives us the possibility to disseminate specialist information in a much more convenience, and hopefully cost effective manner. Specialist training, videos, access to seminar recordings and specialist publications.
I can see a need for this, for my own business needs – is this something you need?
I estimate possibly 500-1000 of my subscribers are UK based, thus this effects them directly, assuming they have some online presence… a website, ecommerce store, blog etc… in fact bloggers might be least likely to have full legal compliance.
Many others offer “multinational” services, especially the big agencies, but might not have access to specialist legal information that might affect their clients.
Do you have your legal bases covered?