Do You Have to Disclose Your Home Address on Your Website?

Transcript of the Video

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Suzanne Dibble here, data protection law expert, coming to you raw and uncut, and today, this evening, I'm going to be talking to you about something that isn't directly related to GDPR. But because there have been over 80 comments in the thread and a very nice lady wrote me a very nice email asking me to do a video on this, today I'm going to be talking about the issue of whether you do or you don't need to add your personal home address to your website.

I read the post that was causing people a great deal of consternation. There are often very good reasons why, particularly as small businesses, if you're a sole trader, and particularly if you're a woman, you don't want your home address to be on the website.

So, do we legally need to add our home addresses to our websites? Now, there isn't just one law on this. There's a number of laws that actually impact on this, so I'm going to talk you through those and I'll tell you what the letter of the law says. However, listen on for what I say at the end about what are the consequences if you don't comply with the letter of the law.

Okay, so the first thing to note is that, if you're carrying on e-commerce, whether as a limited company or a sole trader, then you have to display a geographic address at which the service provider is established. Okay, so could that be a virtual office with a mail forwarding service? The answer is, it's not entirely clear. Okay, just a geographical address at which the service provider is established.

I think, certainly, if you're a limited company and you have a registered office, that's registered at, say, your accountants or one of these service companies that deal with mail forwarding and registered office and things like that, then there's an argument to say that is a geographic address at which the service provider is established. But, in summary, it's not entirely clear, which I know isn't very helpful, but listen on to the consequences bit at the end.

Okay, so if you're a limited company, then you need to disclose your registered office on your website. Now, that doesn't apply to sole traders or partnerships obviously. That's just limited companies. If you're providing a service, then, you must make available to recipients of that service your postal address and, if you're a limited company, your registered office address.

Now, these particular regulations don't mention websites specifically, but if you are concluding contracts online, then, that is probably where that information is going to be included. So in that instance, your postal address would be included on your website. However, whether a postal address could mean a service address, or where they've got the mail forwarding, is not entirely clear.

Then the final thing to think about is, if you're dealing with consumers and you're entering into consumer contracts, and entering into a contract online, then you need to display the geographical address at which the trader, i.e. you, is established. So, again, this reference to geographical address, and my comments apply equally to that as to whether a virtual address will be sufficient or not.

So in summary, before we come onto the risk of any kind of sanction, in summary, if you're a sole trader and you're not carrying on e-commerce, and you're not contracting online in any way, then you don't legally need to have an address on your website, okay. That's the good news. If you're a sole trader and you are carrying on e-commerce, then as I say, there's a bit of a gray area as to whether geographic address at which service provider is established, whether that could be a service office or not.

Now, that's the letter of the law. However, what are the risks of anything happening to you if you fail to put your home address on your website? I'd say they're exceptionally low. I don't think I've ever heard of any case of anybody, of there being any kind of negative, adverse consequences for anybody who hasn't put their home address on their website. And I think, certainly, if you had a good reason not to do so, because you were concerned about your security, then I can't foresee that there would be any adverse consequence of you not doing so.

So, obviously, I'm never the one to say don't comply with the letter of the law, but for me, as a very commercial and practical lawyer, it is all a risk analysis. Yes, we know what the law says, but we have to look at the consequences, and you have to weigh that up in the bigger picture of things. Yes, if there was a big police force going around and checking, and the consequences were that you were going to get thrown into prison for not putting your home address on the bottom of your website, then obviously I would be strongly advising you to put that home address on the bottom there. But there isn't and you're not, so if you feel at all concerned about putting your home address on your website, for personal safety reasons, then my own personal opinion is don't do it, okay.

Yes, I think it's advisable to have some address on there, so if you can, then have a virtual office where they will forward any mail to you. That's what I do. I think that's entirely sensible to do that. I actually used an entity that charges £100 a year and they provide me with my registered office and they also do a mail forwarding service for me. So I think I've got a special deal though, so I'm not sure that I can say who they are. But those kinds of deals are around. So, you know, for £100 a year for your own personal safety, then I would certainly do that.

All right, so I hope that has satisfied your curiosity as to the legal position, but more importantly, offered you some comfort, in the fact that if you choose not to put your personal home address on your website, you're not going to get whisked off to prison, or fined an extortionate amount, or anything like that.

Okay, so that is it. A not very GDPR related tonight, at all, but we'll be back on track with that tomorrow, and I hope that for those of you who were hotly debating that in the group, that has been helpful for you. I will speak to you tomorrow, on something that is entirely GDPR related.