Online and distance selling

Last updated: 27 April 2017

Online and distance selling includes any business that supplies goods through:

  • the internet and email
  • digital TV
  • phone, text messages or fax
  • mail order

Information your business needs to tell customers

If your business is selling goods using one of the methods above, it has to tell customers certain information.

This includes things like:

  • your business name
  • a description of your goods or services
  • how and when they can cancel an order
  • the steps involved in a customer placing an order

You can find more information on what your business needs to tell their customers on the Business Companion website.

Regulations

Your business needs to follow certain regulations when selling any goods.

For online selling

Your business must follow e-Commerce Regulations.

You can find a Beginner's Guide to eCommerce Regulations 2002 on the National Archives website.

All businesses selling goods

Your business must follow the Consumer Rights Act 2015.

You can find more information on the Consumer Rights Act 2015 on the Business Companion website.

Safe online and distance selling

Your business should protect itself against fraud and online threats when selling goods online or by distance.

You can find advice about selling on Ebay on the Get Safe Online website.

Accepting online payments

Your business will need to make special banking arrangements to accept payments online. You'll need to:

  • set up an internet merchant account (IMA)
  • get access to a payment gateway
  • get access to a payment service provider

If you don't have an e-commerce website, you can still accept online payments by using a payment processing company or joining an online shopping mall.

Accepting card payments online

Most online payments are made with credit or debit cards. To accept card payments online, you'll need:

  • An internet merchant account (IMA) from an acquiring bank. This allows you to accept credit and debit card payments directly online. Several banks and processors offer IMAs.
  • A payment gateway and a payment service provider. Payment gateways manage the secure transmission and validation of card details, as well as the transfer of funds between customer and seller. The payment gateway can either be integrated into your e-commerce website, or hosted by a payment service provider.

Acquiring banks have strict criteria for offering IMAs. If your business doesn't meet these criteria, then you may still be able to accept online payments by using a payment processing company or payment bureau, or by joining an online shopping mall.

Payment bureaus

A payment bureau offers a combined processing service, by providing a payment gateway and an IMA.

There may be additional costs associated with a bureau service, over and above card transaction fees, but they offer a useful alternative for businesses who are unable to get an IMA, or who have a low volume of online transactions.

Online shopping malls

An online mall brings together a number of online shops on the same website, often from the same sector. It hosts your online shop and processes payments for you.

Malls will often provide software to help you set up your shop and receive card payments on your behalf. You maintain and update your own shop within the mall, but most of the administration is done for you.

You can find more information about accepting online payments on the Electronic Payments website.