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‘Avoiding legal pitfalls on your website’ - Andrew Brennan, SGH Martineau

Technology and website design has enabled companies to operate highly visual and interactive sites to attract consumers to their brands or business but now with the prospect of even stricter legal requirements, it can be too easy to fall foul of the law.

Andrew Brennan, an intellectual property and technology lawyer at commercial law firm SGH Martineau, will demonstrate how some websites are effectively operating illegally with businesses inadvertently leaving themselves open to legal action and even fines when he runs a workshop at AM and Auto Trader’s Digital Marketing Conference.

Taking place on 12 February at Birmingham’s NEC, the event sees digital experts take to the stage with smaller breakout sessions focusing on particular aspects and providing tangible advice which delegates can readily apply on return to their businesses.

Commented Brennan: “Most businesses understand the need for a website that potential customers will find attractive, but ensuring the site meets minimum legal requirements often takes second place, possibly because the law is perceived to be too complex or simply due to a lack of knowledge. But ignorance is no defence in the eyes of the law.”

Websites need to adhere to a number of different laws, particularly those relating to data protection, direct marketing and consumer rights – failure to comply risks investigation by a regulator or watchdog, followed in some cases by financial penalties.

He added: “It’s also important that businesses make sure their commercial interests are properly protected if they sell goods or services through their website and businesses should avoid taking a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to their website terms and conditions.”

Exploring legal requirements and common mistakes such as incorporating appropriate terms and conditions and copyright infringements, Brennan will also explore a company’s responsibility for the data it collects online. One of the recent law changes includes cookie use in 2011 which demanded that websites clearly explain their use and how the information gathered will be used, and obtain consent before they are set.

With new, more stringent data protection laws from Europe currently under consideration and expected in to be finalised sometime in 2015, businesses need to assess their websites’ compliance levels. Many could well be operating in breach of current legislation. New EU website regulations will see stricter rules and requirements together with large fines making non-compliance, even if unintended, a potentially costly affair along with the likelihood of damaging a website operator’s reputation and business. The proposed text of the new regulations (which is yet to be finalised) suggests the onus of proving consent will fall on a business so being able to show an easy and uncomplicated procedure is essential protection against potential claims.

The ‘right to be forgotten’ has also hit the headlines in 2014 and proposals will make it clearer and easier for individuals to have information removed which relates to them. It means website managers will have to address areas which previously may have been taken for granted such as gaining consent from consumers to use their email address for marketing purposes and even using a consumer’s previous site behaviour to tailor content when they next visit your website.

Added Brennan: “A fully compliant website protects the business as well as the consumer and in a content-rich environment, copywriting original material will safeguard the business’ online reputation and persona whilst a user’s policy for sites which run consumer review sections (user-generated content) is a must to protect a company from illegal or offensive material being published.”

Tickets are available to dealers and manufacturers, with a limited number of supplier tickets on sale. To book, please contact Emma-Louise Kinnaird on 01733 395133, email or visit

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