Creating a fairer Britain
If you provide services through a website – such as online shopping, direct marketing or advertising – you are known as an Information Society Service Provider (ISSP).
This applies whether you have a one-page website which you maintain yourself or a very sophisticated website maintained by a professional web design company, and covers anything in between.
If someone believes that they have been discriminated against by an ISSP, and the ISSP is established in the UK, they can bring a claim in the UK courts against the UK-based ISSP even if the person is not in the UK, so long as they are in a European Economic Area (EEA) member state.
As an ISSP, you must make sure:
A local newspaper accepts an advertisement which says that jobs at a particular company are only open to people of a particular ethnic or national origin. The newspaper puts it on its website. The advertisement directly discriminates because of race, and the newspaper as well as the advertiser may be liable for discrimination: the advertiser as an employer and the newspaper as an ISSP.
An online holiday company established in the UK refuses to take bookings for shared accommodation from same-sex couples. A lesbian or gay couple could bring a claim for direct discrimination because of sexual orientation in the British courts regardless of whether the couple were in the UK or another EEA member state.
Where this is a reasonable adjustment (and, as with other written information, it is likely to be), your website must be accessible to all users – this will include,
You cannot wait until a disabled person wants to use your services, but must think in advance about what people with a range of impairments might reasonably need.
The Royal National Institute of Blind People provides comprehensive information about web accessibility for disabled people with a range of impairments at: http://www.rnib.org.uk
You can read more about making reasonable adjustments to remove barriers for disabled people, including how you can work out what is reasonable in your circumstances.
Where your role is a limited one – for example, you are only temporarily storing information, and not initiating the transmission, selecting the recipient or selecting or modifying the information in the transmission – you are excused the responsibilities of an ISSP. This excludes, for example, websites that temporarily transmit or store messages between users.
If an ISSP is not based in the UK, then the laws of the country where it is based will apply to it, rather than UK equality law.
An online retailer, which provides tickets to major sporting events, offers discounts to large groups of men but not women when booking hospitality packages for a football tournament. The online retailer is established in Germany so in this instance a case of direct discrimination because of sex would have to be brought in the German courts regardless of whether the person complaining was in the UK or another EEA member state.