Website legal requirements for UK charities

Written by Andy Pearson

If you are asking yourself what legal requirements you need to comply with when building a new charity website then this post should help. We aren’t lawyers, so if in doubt it’s best to check any details, but this post should point you in the right direction.

Collecting data about people

The hardest legal requirements to get your head round relate to the collection of information about users of your website. The way you manage this data is governed primarily by the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA). This is set to change in 2018 when the new EU Data Protection Directive (known as ‘GDPR’) will be adopted into UK law. This new legislation will firm up the existing requirements and, most notably, require organisations to obtain and record active consent before processing data for marketing purposes. For more on this read our post on how to ensure your charity is GDPR compliant.

In order to comply with the current legal obligations and avoid costly mistakes, you must make sure the information you store is kept secure, accurate and up to date. You need to record how you will do this in a Data Protection Policy and we have created a free data protection template for small charities to help you get started. 

The data protection legislation covers all of your activities but in relation to the website, there are four specific things to consider, as follows.

Registration with the ICO

If your organisation processes data as defined by the DPA then you need to maintain a registration with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). This applies to most organisations but you can comply very quickly on the ICO website.

Privacy policy

If you process data then you must also show a privacy policy or data protection notice. The policy must cover how you handle private information including your approach to cookies (more on that below) that are placed on a visitor’s machine when they visit your website. Typically this policy is linked to from the footer of your website. Because most sites are similar in the manner they collect information you may be able to grab this from another website and adapt it to your needs. 

Read our post on privacy notices (includes privacy policy template). 

Cookie compliance notification

Cookies are simple text files that are stored on your computer by almost all websites that you visit so they can track information about you. This can include which pages you click on or whether you visited the website in the previous few days. 

A few years ago, the ICO made it clear that if you store cookies on a user’s machine it is not sufficient to have a clause covering this buried in your privacy policy. Instead, you need to gain their ‘consent’. Quite how actively this consent is given remains slightly unclear and charities in the UK have adopted a broad range of measures in response, from cookie pop-ups to privacy policy links in the website footer.

Showing organisational information

You need to publish a certain amount of information about your organisation on your website.

What information should be shown?

✔ Name of the company or charity

✔ Registered address

✔ The part of the UK in which the company or charity is registered

✔ Registered number

✔ VAT number, if registered for VAT

Where should this information be shown?

There are no specific rules about where this information should be displayed. We recommend showing it in the footer of your website so that it appears on every page but some organisations choose to show it only on the ‘about us’ or ‘contact us’ pages. 

Regulated professions

Websites for those in a registered profession (such as solicitors or doctors) must also show the following information for each individual professional who is listed on the site:

  • Details of any professional body with which he/she is registered
  • Professional title and the place where that title was awarded
  • A reference to the professional rules applicable to the service provider

E-commerce and distance selling

There are a number of additional requirements for the provision of information when concluding contracts online. To ensure these are all covered, eCommerce sites should display a page of ‘terms and conditions’ available to all users. These should be laid out clearly and written in plain English. To safeguard your interests, these should be reviewed by a lawyer.

E-commerce providers should make themselves aware of the Distance Selling Regulations. Among other things, these regulations require e-commerce websites to provide the following information:

  • The main characteristics of the goods or services offered
  • The price of the goods or services, including all taxes
  • The cost of delivery of the goods or services
  • Payment and delivery information
  • A notice about the right to cancel during a seven-day cooling off period
  • The minimum duration of any permanent or recurrent contract

Fundraising regulations

The top 1,000 fundraising charities receive over half of all fundraising income. This represents a huge opportunity for smaller charities to increase their fundraising. But what are the dos and don’ts of fundraising? If you are intending to do more fundraising this section should give you some guidance on how to do it responsibly.

The basics

Regulations on charity fundraising in the UK are voluntary. This means that the charity sector relies on a ‘self-regulatory’ framework to ensure best practice in fundraising. The thinking behind this is that it is in charities’ best interests to maintain a good reputation for the whole sector. It also saves money and bureaucracy if the sector can effectively police itself.

Self-regulatory fundraising framework

The self-regulatory framework relies on a number of key actors and resources. 

Codes of Fundraising Practice have been produced to provide broad best practice guidance in various key areas. These are maintained by the Fundraising Regulator which also handles any complaints and works proactively with charities to improve the reputation of the sector and promote responsible fundraising practices.

Quick fundraising checklist

If you have clear answers to the following there is a good chance you are at least on the right track.

✔ Are you confident your supporters data is secure?

✔ Are donations processed securely?

✔ Could your marketing materials contain any misleading information?

✔ Could any of the imagery you use be shocking or offensive?

✔ Is it obvious how supporters can donate in a tax-efficient manner?

✔ Do you have a complaints procedure? How is this publicised?

If you have any doubts about legal requirements, you should really speak to a lawyer. However, if you have any general questions about setting out information clearly on your website and creating a smooth user experience then get in touch.

Download the checklist

We’ve created a free checklist to accompany this guide. If you find it useful please consider sharing this post!

Download the compliance checklist

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