Why we suggest that you break the law

OpenGlobal E-commerce is one of the few web design agencies to even try to produce legally compliant websites. But there is one specific law that we suggest you break. And we only do this so that you can keep in with the spirit of the law, by breaking the letter of the law.

Confused?

The European E-commerce Directive introduced a whole set of new requirements for all commercial websites. Don't make the mistake of thinking that your website is excluded because it's not an e-commerce website. The EU legislators aren't the brightest people on Earth and they didn't think to look up the meaning of e-commerce before misnaming their new legislation.

One of the new requirements that they introduced was that all commercial websites must display an email address. It is quite explicit that even if you have a contact form, you must also display your email address.

Now rather than asking someone who knew what they were talking about, they decided they knew best and went straight ahead and made a displayed email address a legal requirement.

Their intentions were good, but their intelligence was not.

As anyone who displays their email address on a website will tell you, this is one of the best sources of spam.

Spammers have software that visits thousands of website every hour scanning them for email addresses to spam. And once they've got your email address, it's too late, there's no getting it back.

A deluge of spam means one of two things; people start ignoring their email account altogether, or people start using spam filters.

The intention of the legislation was to make it easy for customers to be able to contact you. But, if you're ignoring your emails, that defeats the whole point of the law.

If instead of ignoring your emails, you start using a spam filter, that's a little bit better. But filters make wrong decisions and genuine emails get blocked quite regularly.

If customer emails are being blocked, that also defeats the whole point of this law.

I know of several companies who have lost sales from me because they have ignored emails (or because their spam filter blocked them).

A contact form (which a captcha field) solves the problem by providing a sure fire way for visitors to contact you without the risk of spam. You've satisfied the spirit and the intention of the law 100%, but broken the letter of the law.

An alternative is to use a cloaked email address on your website. This is where your email address is encrypted and you have some javascript on your website which decrypts it and displays it when a visitor views the page.

This is not 100% secure because it is still possible for the spammers' software to decrypt the email address, it just makes it much harder. Also, a spammer can just visit your website in person to get your email address.

This method requires the visitor to have javascript enabled in their browser. This is fine for 99.9% of cases, but for that small minority without javascript enabled, they won't be able to see your email address at all. For that reason, it could be argued that this is also not legally compliant.

Now, none of this should be considered legal advice, we're just presenting you with the facts, and giving our politicians the mockery they so justly deserve for their ignorance and arrogance. If you choose to follow any of these methods, you do so entirely at your own risk. We're not advising you to break the law, we're just saying that this is what a lot of companies do, and it helps their businesses to run better, and keeps their customers happier, than if they'd followed the letter of the law.

You have to make your own informed decision about this.

But bear in mind that there is no email address displayed on Google, Facebook, Twitter, or any other major internet brands. They've made their decision, and they are rich enough to keep paying the fines if anyone decides to actually start policing this legislation.

We're not advising you to do this, we're just saying that this is what a lot of companies do, and

OpenGlobal E-commerce are one of the only web design agencies around to take an interest in internet law. If you want to find out more about the legal requirements for your website, with an honest opinion, speak to us today.

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