Office goods supplier legal issues

Woman in glasses holding blue document with office supplies in background

Some of the key areas where legislation is likely to affect your business are listed below.

What licences does an office goods supplier need?

There are no licensing requirements relating specifically to office goods suppliers.

You should, however, be aware of the following:

  • you will need a music licence from PPL PRS Ltd if you play background music in your premises or when telephone callers are placed on hold
  • businesses which keep computerised records of individuals' personal details and/or use CCTV may need to register as data users with the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO)

Packaging regulations

Businesses which handle 50 tonnes or more of qualifying packaging materials and have an annual turnover of more than £2 million must register with the Environment Agency in England, Natural Resources Wales, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) in Scotland or the Northern Ireland Environment Agency and carry out the necessary recovery and recycling of packaging waste. Alternatively they may join one of the registered compliance schemes currently operating (for example Valpak or Paperpak). A fee is paid and packaging data supplied to the scheme which then takes on and discharges the recycling and recovery obligations which the member business would have had. The British Office Supplies and Services (BOSS) Federation has information about the packaging regulations on its website.

Selling general insurance

Anyone who sells, advises on, arranges or assists in selling general insurance may need to be regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) even if insurance is only a small part of their business. Businesses selling or advising on general insurance products can be directly authorised by the FCA or can act as an 'appointed representative' of an FCA-authorised insurer. Contact the FCA for further information.

Waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE)

The WEEE Regulations aim to minimise the impact of waste electrical and electronic equipment on the environment. If your business sells electrical and electronic products to domestic customers, then you're required to give customers information about WEEE, provide a free like for like take-back service for waste electrical goods or join the distributor take-back scheme. This is to allow customers to return old appliances when they buy new equipment. You can find out more on the BOSS website.

Waste batteries

If your business sells more than 32 kg of portable batteries in a year you must take back used batteries from customers to be recycled. You must provide this service free-of-charge. DEFRA has produced a calculator to help businesses work out whether they sell enough batteries each year to be affected by the regulations. You can use a tool based on the DEFRA calculator on the Waste Support website. If you do need to take back used batteries, you can use a free battery compliance scheme to collect the batteries from you.

Retailing and selling

There is a wide range of legislation that applies to retail outlets to protect the interests of the consumer. For example, goods and services must not be misleadingly described and the price of goods must be clearly and appropriately displayed. You will be responsible for making sure that all goods or services are fit for their intended purpose and of satisfactory quality.

Other legislation

There are other pieces of legislation that may affect you, such as those that regulate trading online and special regulations - known as REACH Regulations - that control the distribution and use of chemical substances. The BOSS Federation provides details of many regulations that may affect its members. More information can be obtained from the BOSS Federation website.

Carrier bag charge

A 5 pence charge applies in England, but small and medium-sized businesses (with fewer than 250 full-time equivalent employees) are exempt. You can get detailed guidance from the gov.uk website.

Retailers in Wales and Scotland must charge customers at least 5 pence if they supply them with a single-use carrier bag. This applies to all types of single-use bag, whether they are made of plastic, paper or plant-based starch. There is detailed guidance on the Gov.Wales and Zero Waste Scotland websites.

In Northern Ireland retailers must charge customers a 5 pence levy on all bags with a retail price of less than 20 pence (including any bags that would otherwise be free of charge), whether they are single-use or reusable.

Health & Safety, fire

You must comply with workplace health and safety and fire safety legislation.

Employment legislation

Anyone employing staff must comply with employment legislation. Important areas of legislation include recruitment, employment contracts, pay, working hours, holidays, employment policies, sickness, maternity, paternity, discrimination, discipline, grievances, dismissals, redundancies and employment tribunals.

Insurance for an office goods supplier

Contact an insurer or insurance broker and explain exactly how your business will operate - they will then explain what insurance cover you must have by law, and other cover you should consider. This might include:

  • employer's liability
  • public liability
  • premises, premises contents and stock
  • goods in transit (being collected or delivered)
  • cash
  • business interruption
  • product liability
  • credit insurance
  • motor insurance (for delivery vehicles)

It is also worth noting that some buying groups offer their members special insurance policies, which might save you money and provide the level of cover you need. The British Independent Retailers Association (BIRA) also offers insurance services to its members.

The British Office Supplies and Services Federation (BOSS) also offers specialist insurance policies for BOSS members, tailored to individual member's requirements.

When comparing insurance quotes, uncover the differences between policies by using an insurance comparison form.

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