A Web Designer’s Law Update – Heather Burns (WordCamp Manchester 2014)


Heather Burns begins by telling us a little about herself, working on web design projects, as well as more legal projects regarding the web. She’s from Washington D.C., and has a very natural voice and soothing accent. By the way, neither she or I are lawyers, and this should not be taken as legal advice.

An Introduction

She begins by speaking about the EU Consumer Rights Directive, “giving better protection to consumers and sellers by forcing transparency through enforced regulations”. Heather then gags about another law coming into effect in 1997, the year we last won Eurovision!

Her First eBook

She wrote an eBook about the Consumer Rights Directive.

Pre-Purchase Information

So, the seller’s identity, physical location, phone number, and email address needs to be displayed before purchasing an item. Also, an accurate description amongst other things is required. You should always be totally transparent about payment information for subscriptions, services, and reoccurring payments.

Banned Checkout Buttons Language

Never use the following words on checkout buttons: order; pay; continue; go; register. Instead, use the following terms: place order and pay; finish and pay; pay now; check out and pay.

Digital Cancellations

Under the directive, you’ve got 14 days to cancel your order, though as soon as you commence the download of the files, that right is taken away!

No More Pre-Ticked Cart Items!

Any mechanisms which automatically add other items to your cart when making a purchase (such as a .eu or .info domain name when wanting a .com domain name) are illegal. Remove them, now.

The Order Confirmation (or The Receipt)

Must be on a durable medium including all information from the site regarding your purchase – even the info before the purchase!

Premium Rate Phone Numbers

These numbers are illegal too! Now, if you’ve got customers with a problem with your product or service, you’re only allowed to provide a standard rate phone number.

The EU Cookie Law

In two years, the ICO received 963 cookie law reports, and the majority of these are from disgruntled customers. In fact, ICO only actively check two sites, and of these, none have ever been prosecuted or taken further than being monitored. “Cookies are ICO’s small potatoes”.

She finishes this section with a case study, regarding a large hack on the BPAS website, with an outdated site, with no secure passwords, no security testing, yet they did have a privacy policy. 9,000 women’s names, addresses, phone numbers and ethnicities. A £200,000 monetary fine was enforced.

Final Words

Get compliant, now! There’s then a quick Q&A session regarding domain names and the laws surrounding them. Overall, this was a super interesting presentation – thanks, Heather!


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