This piece is going to briefly discuss the regulatory bodies that are an authority of e-commerce and associated areas. There is no regulatory body that has overall responsibility for the regulation of e-commerce. There are several bodies that enforce certain laws that apply to e-commerce. Some of which are:
- Chartered Trading Standards Institute – Protects consumers from both offline and online rouge traders.
- The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) – Is the regulatory body that deals with data protection. When it comes to online activity the ICO can monitor unsolicited marketing material by electronic means such as, picture messages, texts, and emails. Marketing material should only be sent if the individual has consented to receiving it, unless the email address was gained from a commercial relationship. A person must be given the opportunity to stop receiving the material. The General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) has increased the ICO’s ability to raid data controllers and processors. With a valid warrant the ICO can enter premises, seize documents and materials to establish whether data protection legislation has been complied with. The introduction of the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) (Amendment) Regulations 2011 further added to the ICO’s responsibilities which includes, ensuring that web hosts gain consent from users before using cookies and taking enforcement action against web hosts that are in breach.
- The Office of Communications (Ofcom) – Is the regulatory body responsible for competitive conduct regarding access tariffs and charges. Its responsibilities are stated in the Communications Act 2003. Ofcom also has power under the Enterprise Act 2002, Competition Act 1998, and European Union (EU) competition law to handle anti-competitive conduct. Ofcom’s powers were considerably increased by the Digital Rights Act 2010 which amended the Communications Act 2003. Ofcom can limit or cut off a subscriber’s internet access for regularly infringing copyright with illegal music or film downloads.
- The Advertising Standards Authority – Is the United Kingdoms (UK) independent authority that regulates advertising across all media. The UK applies the Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing (CAP Code) and the Code of Broadcast Advertising (BCAP Code). They are written by the Committees of Advertising Practice. There are also sector specific bodies such as the Financial Conduct Authority which regulates the marketing of financial products online.
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