Wednesday, 1 April 2009

The beauty is in the small print

Fashionista has been lucky enough to receive the following offering from her friend Mark Sebba of Net-a-Porter:

"Fashionista at Net-a-Porter has been an avid fan of Fashionista-at-Law since she started blogging and has been both amused and interested by her take on the current retail and fashion scene. At least Fashionista at Net-a-Porter doesn’t have to worry about those High Street real estate problems; of late she has been more pre-occupied by the imminent launch of her “sister” website, In addition to scouring the best known fashion designers’ factories for some spectacularly exciting bargains to offer Fashionistas-at-Large, she has been troubling her pretty little head with the small print.

Hidden inside those Terms and Conditions, only a click away on every website, lurk a multitude of traps for unwary e-tailers. Although most people probably never read the T's and C's, every e-tailer has a horror story about someone – usually it turns out to be a lawyer – who has picked over them in detail and then challenges the e-tailer on the most arcane of points. So Fashionista at Net-a-Porter, as well as respecting Trade Descriptions, Sale of Goods legislation and Consumer Protection From Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 like any traditional bricks and mortar retailer, also has to pay careful attention to the Distance Selling Regulations and the Electronic Commerce Regulations. And that’s only for selling in the UK.

Many of Fashionista at Net-a-Porter’s customers live outside the UK: in the European Union – where another set of rules is fast developing for cross border e-commerce and Data Protection; and in the United States, where Fashionista at Net-a-Porter operates a separate distribution centre and a different website. So she needs to write another set of Terms and Conditions for her US business, but this set needs to conform to the laws of 51 different states, as well as to, among other things, the FTC Guidance document "Dot Com Disclosures Information About Online Advertising". Meeting these varied requirements calls for some juggling and of course much consultation with Fashionista-at-Law and her American cousin. How would we manage without the lawyers?"

If any of our other readers would like to share their thoughts or concerns, please email