Are all your legal bases covered?
Barbara Jamieson is BridalBuyer.com’s law expert. In this article she details all the legal vulnerabilities you may not be aware of and provides actionable steps to tackle them with.
Well, here we are in the second quarter of 2021 already – where has the time gone?
Q2 has brought loads of excitement for us all already – the UK has started easing its lockdown restrictions, meaning many bridal businesses are finally starting to be able to open their doors again.
If the last year has taught us anything as business owners, it’s that your business needs to be covered from a legal perspective. I can’t think of a better time for business owners to really buckle down and make sure that they’re fully protected, so that they can grow and thrive in the best and safest way possible.
One of the most important aspects to think about from a legalities point of view is the vulnerabilities that could be hiding in the tiny cracks of your business. Here’s what you need to be aware of and some actionable steps to add to your to-do list.
Brand protection is paramount for a flourishing business – you wouldn’t want to spend all of your time, energy and money to grow your business for it not to be properly protected, right? Not protecting your brand opens your business up to significant risk. When you weigh the cost of brand protection against the cost of dealing with a brand dispute, it’s a no brainer. This comes down to registering your business’s trademark.
If your business name hasn’t already been trademarked, you could accidentally be infringing on someone else’s mark. If there are trademarked names similar/the same to your business name, particularly within the same industry, you could be forced to rebrand at some stage in the future. It’s a ticking timebomb.
- Check the UK trademark register to find this out ASAP, you can do it here - www.gov.uk/search-for-trademark
- If there aren’t any similar marks, add trademarking to your to-do list. Nothing is stopping someone else coming along and trademarking your business name, and forcing you to spend loads of time (and money) on a rebrand.
Having a website for your business is a brilliant asset. It can essentially act as your ‘shop window’. However, remember, it’s also essential that it’s legally compliant. There are certain things that your website must have, otherwise you’re susceptible to risk, damaged reputation and maybe even fines.
- To go alongside your cookies policy, your website needs to have a cookies banner that users agree to when entering your site. This has to pop up every time someone logs onto your website.
- Another legal document your website should have in place – website terms and conditions. This states the terms users can actually use your website, and protects the copyright in your website content (i.e. stops others pinching it and pretending it is their own!)
Now we know how important contracts are, every solicitor could go on about this until the sun comes up. What are some of the vulnerabilities you could be facing?
- From a base level, simply not having the right contracts in place to fit, cover and protect your business opens you up to loads of risk. Look at your business from a legal perspective and figure out which contracts you need to have in place. Some of the basics - customer terms and conditions and employment contracts.
- We’ve spoken before about the importance of customer T+Cs. These are there to ensure you receive payment, help with refunds (particularly important for bridal boutiques), and limit how much you can be sued in a worst-case scenario.
- Do you have employees? It’s a legal requirement for you to give them a written statement of work the day they begin (aka an employment contract) – if you don’t have these contracts in place, get this drafted and signed swiftly.
Data Protection and GDPR
This is incredibly important, and you need to be aware of your business’s obligations surrounding this. Non-compliance with data protection regulations could land you hefty fines through the door. Here’s what to be aware of:
- Does your business process personal data? Most do, therefore you need to register with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). This is a fee you pay annually. If you don’t do this, you could be fined. If you haven’t done so already, register as soon as you can.
- Do you process large amounts of EU citizens’ personal data? If you do, look into appointing an EU GDPR representative. Add researching and finding out if this is right for you and your business to your tasks.
- A Brexit one had to be here! So, GDPR is an EU law that the UK did comply with. Following Brexit, the UK are waiting for an ‘adequacy decision’ from the EU to recognise the UK as having an adequate data protection regime (I know, boring jargon – it essentially means we’re waiting to see if we meet EU GDPR standards). Keep your eyes peeled for this decision. You may need to make some changes to ensure flow of personal data is lawful, including putting in standard contractual clauses. For the time being, don’t make any changes.
- To make sure you aren’t opening yourself up to any data protection weaknesses or vulnerabilities, add reviewing and updating your data protection policies to your to-do list. Doing this quarterly is a great idea – and remember, you may need to change these following the EU GDPR decision.
Keeping on top of your legal vulnerabilities is extremely important to reduce business risk as you scale and grow. If, after reading this, you feel like you could benefit from some one-to-one advice, please take advantage of our free 15-minute legal advice calls, where you can ask any legal questions relating to your business. You can book a slot here: calendly.com/jamiesonlaw/15min