KNOWLEDGE BASE Ecommerce - Online Shopping In The UK

 The information on this page was current at the time it was published. Regulations, trends, statistics, and other information are constantly changing. While we strive to update our Knowledge Base, we strongly suggest you use these pages as a general guide and be sure to verify any regulations, statistics, guidelines, or other information that are important to your efforts.


Brexit Update:
Since the UK officially left the European Union on January 31, 2020, the relationship between the two has evolved and continues to be shaped by the ongoing implementation of the withdrawal agreement.

Key Dates:

  • January 31, 2020: UK officially left the EU and entered a transition period that ended on December 31, 2020.

  • December 31, 2020: The transition period ended, and the UK fully exited the EU single market and customs union.

  • January 1, 2021: The UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement came into effect, outlining the post-Brexit relationship between the two entities.

  • 2023/2024 Current: The UK and EU are still navigating the ongoing implementation and potential revisions of their post-Brexit relationship.

It's crucial for businesses operating in either the UK or the EU to stay informed about the latest developments and adjust their operations accordingly.


Ecommerce - Online Shopping In The UK

In recent years there has been a huge increase in the number of e-commerce businesses worldwide. Not surprisingly, there has been a corresponding increase in e-commerce regulation worldwide. Not only can the laws and regulations be complex, but they can vary greatly from country to country. You should become familiar with and gain at least a basic understanding of the laws and regulations that apply to your business and because of the rate of technological advancement throughout the world, it is particularly important for you to remember that laws are fluid and subject to change. The United Kingdom has developed a legal and regulatory environment to adapt to the new digital age.


What laws and regulations apply?

If you are running an e-commerce business in the UK, some of the most important laws and regulations you should be familiar with are the Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002, the Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000, the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA), and the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations (PECR). More detailed information about how the DPA and the PECR apply to e-commerce can be found in the Data Protection Regulation and Email Marketing Regulations sections, respectively. There are also a number of consumer protection laws and regulations you must be aware of that govern sales contracts, reviews and endorsements, product guarantees, and refunds and returns. For more detailed information about refunds and returns, see the Billing Regulations section.


Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002

Under the Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations:

  • you must clearly display your business name, company registration number, your Value Added Tax (VAT) number, your phone number, your email address, and your geographical address (a PO Box is not sufficient);

  • you must clearly display your website’s “terms and conditions;”

  • you must provide clear information on a product's’ price, tax, and the cost of delivery;

  • you must acknowledge all orders;

  • you must define all marketing offers and the conditions of these offers;

  • if you send unsolicited emails, you must identify them as being unsolicited;

  • you must clearly identify any emails to customers which are of a commercial nature; and

  • you must always identify the sender of any electronic communication.


The Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000

The Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000 govern distance sales, including online, digital television, by mail order or phone, text message or fax. For any distance selling, you must display the following information before an order is placed:

  •  your business name and contact information;

  • a description of your goods or services;

  • the price, including all taxes;

  • how a customer can pay;

  • delivery or shipping arrangements, costs, and how long goods will take to arrive;

  • the minimum length of a customer’s contract; and

  • right to claim a price refund within 14 days of delivery.

You must tell your customers they will be responsible for paying for the return of goods if they cancel the order. If you do not, they will not be liable for the costs.


You are also required to get in touch with your customer in writing after an order is placed and before the goods or services have been delivered. You must tell your customers:

  • details of what they have purchased;

  • the total cost;

  • delivery or shipping arrangements;

  • any guarantees or after-sales services you offer;

  • the minimum duration of any contract and arrangements for terminating the contract;

  • conditions for terminating contracts;

  • how and when they can cancel an order and who pays for returning goods;

  • an address where complaints can be sent;

  • any helpline (customer service) call charges that are more than calling an 01, 02, or 03 number or a mobile or free number.

For online sales, there are additional requirements, including:

  • listing the steps involved in a customer placing an order;

  • acknowledgment of you receipt of any orders electronically as soon as possible;

  • taking reasonable steps to allow customers to correct any errors in their order;

  • letting your customers know what language(s) is available to them;

  • making sure your customers can store and reproduce your terms and conditions, i.e., they can be downloaded and printed;

  • providing your email address;

  • providing your VAT number, where applicable; and

  • providing clear prices and delivery costs for your product(s.

Selling Within the UK

Value-Added Tax (VAT) typically applies to goods sold within the UK, regardless of your location. The standard VAT rate is 20%, but reduced rates apply to certain goods. You can find detailed information on VAT for online businesses on the HMRC website.

All goods entering the UK from outside the UK customs territory are generally subject to import duty, calculated as a percentage of the declared value. You can find more information and duty rates on here.


Selling Outside of the EU

Depending on your sales volume and the destination country, you might need to register for VAT and collect it from customers. Explore thresholds and registration requirements for each country.If you process personal data from EU citizens, regardless of your location, you must comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). This includes data protection principles, transparency obligations, and data subject rights. Familiarize yourself with import duties and taxes applicable to your products in each destination country. Failing to comply can lead to delays, fines, and customer dissatisfaction.For more information on rules for distance selling, online selling and VAT applications for selling outside the UK check the Government website here 

Consider the One-Stop Shop (OSS) scheme for EU sales if your annual EU turnover remains below €10,000. This simplifies VAT reporting through a single portal. Some countries outside the EU have their own data privacy regulations, so research and comply with any relevant requirements in your target markets.


There are extra rules for selling digital services which customers download or stream online, including: computer games , in-game purchase, TV and film ,books ,computer programs ,mobile phone apps ,etc.

Consumer Protection Laws and Regulations

In the UK, there are a number of consumer protection laws and regulations that work together for the protection of consumers in business transactions, to include the sale of goods and services and in-shop and online sales.


Unfair Contract Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999

The Unfair Contract Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999 regulate contracts between seller or suppliers and consumers. For more detailed information on the Unfair Contract Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulation, see the Competition and Market Authority’s Unfair contract terms guidance.


Online Reviews and Endorsements

The Competition and Market Authority also provides guidance on your use of online reviews and endorsements.


Product Guarantees

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 sets out the rules that apply when you (as a business) give your customers a free guarantee on goods. If you offer a guarantee, your consumers can require that you provide it to them in writing. All guarantees must include the following:

  • the name and address of the person giving the guarantee;

  • the contents of the guarantee, i.e., what it covers, what countries it applies in, and what you will do when a claim is made;

  • the duration of the guarantee;

  • directions on how to make a claim; and

  • a statement that the consumer has statutory rights that are not affected by the guarantee.

You cannot use the duration of the guarantee to limit your consumers’ rights. Consumers are entitled to expect the good(s) to remain of satisfactory quality throughout their reasonable life expectancy as long as they are maintained correctly and not misused.


Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002

Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000

The Unfair Contract Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999

Unfair Contract Terms Guidance

Online Reviews Endorsements

Competition and Market Authority

Consumer Rights Act 2015

One-Stop Shop (OSS) 

KNOWLEDGE BASE Ecommerce - Online Shopping In The UK