Holiday park owners are used to enjoying the benefits having a website brings, with customers booking holidays online or simply using a Park’s site to research and plan their trip away. Whilst great for business, web users are becoming increasingly savvy of their rights when surfing the web, leading to website compliance becoming more important now than ever before.
Businesses neglecting the compliance issues of owning a website risk sanction from the Advertising Standards Agency, trading standards and even fines from the Information Commissioners Office.
Whilst navigating the raft of relevant legislation can be tricky, with proper guidance, compliance can become a matter of simple housekeeping for holiday park owners says Ben Travers, Head of IP and IT law at Stephens Scown.
Here are some of the key issues surrounding your website and some tips to make sure you are compliant:
Dealings With Consumers
Park owners allowing visitors to book online will need to ensure that their terms are carefully drafted to finely balance the rights of the customer with the business interests of the park owner.
The law grants consumers certain rights when booking accommodation services. Those rights vary when they book online compared to when they book through more traditional means. As a result, your online terms will need to be different to your offline terms.
Having effective terms in place is not just good housekeeping. By setting out your obligations and controlling the consumer’s expectations, good terms can reduce the number of claims and complaints made against you. In the event that a claim cannot be avoided, decent trading terms will also help to limit your financial liability to a customer.
Almost all websites will collect personal data, whether in the form of email addresses for newsletters or guest data where websites permit online bookings. Park owners who collect data will need to comply with The Data Protection Act. The Act sets out strict obligations on what park owners can do with the data they collect, how they store it and how long they can keep it for. A breach of the Act can result in fines. It can even result in a park owner being obliged to hand over any non-compliant data – potentially resulting in a park sacrificing its entire marketing database.
Terms of Website Use
The law requires website owners to provide certain information about themselves to visitors of their site. The easiest way to do this is with terms of website use. These terms are designed to apply to any visitor to a site, not just customers who make a purchase.
Properly drafted terms of website use can help to strengthen your position in the unfortunate event that your website is used in connection with malicious events such as Spam, launching denial of service attacks, viruses etc. They can also help to increase your options in the event that a third party infringes the intellectual property (such as the text and images) available on your site and enable you to control links to your site.
Your website is a powerful tool in presenting your business to the world, yet many businesses do not realise the responsibility that comes with owning a website. The consequences of getting it wrong can be severe, both financially and in terms of damage to reputation, but getting your house in order need not be a gruelling task.