Could Your Business Face A Lawsuit Over the Website Accessibility Regulations 2018? EU Regulates Websites and Mobile Apps 2018

The writer is a digital media and IP lawyer, owner and principal solicitor at PAIL® Solicitors. Peter Adediran’s specialist niche area of practice is IP and website/mobile app compliance and contract law for SMEs, artists and management. Contact Peter Adediran on +44 (0)207 305-7491 or by email to peter@pailsolicitors.co.uk.

 

The Website/App Accessibility Regulations 2018

The first round of the Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No 2) Accessibility Regulations 2018 came into force on 23/09 and mandates that Web and mobile content maintained by the UK Government be made accessible to people with disabilities.

Mobile App Lawyer

Mobile App Lawyer

The Regulations are pursuant to the European Union (EU) Directive on the Accessibility of Websites and Mobile Applications (the “Directive”) which requires all public sector websites and applications in EU member states to implement, enforce and maintain accessibility standards on websites and mobile apps meet based on W3C Web content accessibility guidelines, or risk fines and legal penalties.

 

The Directive set deadlines for its implementation into the law of members states as follows:

 

  • New public sector websites must conform by 23 September 2019
  • All public sector websites by 23 September 2020
  • All public sector mobile apps by 23 June 2021

 

The W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines

 

The W3C Web content accessibility guidelines have been the work of a W3 Org working group since at-least 1999 first with the WCAG 1.0 version in May 1999 and then the WCAG 2.0 working draft in 2003. Fast forward to 26 February 2015 there was the first Mobile accessibility public working draft of how WCAG 2.0 and W3C/WAI guidelines apply to mobile.

 

The current position is the W3C WAI accessibility standards/guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 W3C Recommendation 05 June 2018, which includes mobile accessibility within its scope.

 

The Website/App Compliance Requirements

 

If the public body PB meets the WCAG 2.1 requirements, then it will comply with the Regulations although there are exemptions and it’s permissible for the public sector body not to comply if on its assessment in complying with the Regulations there would be a “disproportionate burden” on the PB. 

Major blue-chip companies will be already aware of the W3C Guidelines as the guidelines have been around for two decades, and many blue-chip companies will have already updated their terms and conditions and configured their websites and mobile apps in compliance.

 

The PB must provide an “accessibility statement” which they shall keep under review.

Website Lawyers

Website Lawyers

 

Application to public and private sector

 

Although the Regulations apply to the public sector, they are a wake-up call for the public and private sector. As a rule of thumb, if your business considers disabilities for open access in your physical stores, you should also meet the legal accessibility requirements for your website.

 

In the US, other than federal, state, and local government websites which must meet Section 508 regulations, there are no specific government regulations for website accessibility. Claimants have been able to bring cases successfully against commercial sites that have not been accessible for disabled users. Notable examples of cases brought successfully in the US for business websites that did not comply with the American Disabilities Act include Winn-Dixie (Gil v. Winn-Dixie) which resulted in a $250,000 fine for failure to bring its website up to WCAG standards and the Robles v. Domino’s Pizza case.

 

Companies will not be able to shift liability to Web and mobile app developers for non-compliant platforms although they might consider contractual indemnities in web development agreements to recover all loss from the developer which flows from any liability triggered by the Regulations.

 

Major blue-chip companies will be already aware of the W3C Guidelines as the guidelines have been around for two decades, and many blue-chip companies will have already updated their terms and conditions and configured their websites and mobile apps in compliance. However, they will still need to be more vigilant to remediate their digital media to mitigate the risk of liability.

 

The Regulations will be a more significant burden to SME’s who will need to review their website and mobile application terms and conditions with their lawyers and arrange accessibility conformity with their app development team to manage the risk of litigation, and should take steps to deal with any flaws in their website, and apps to make sure that disabled users have equality of access to consumer-facing content.

 

Action

Whether you are a small or medium sized business, it is imperative that you understand the regulations that govern websites and mobile app business in the UK, EU and worldwide.

We’d be delighted to help you bring your website and mobile app to the worldwide regulatory standards. If you are writing your own terms and conditions then you may find this article useful. Contact us today at support@pailsolicitors.co.uk to get started or complete either our mobile app regulatory compliance quotation form or our free website terms and conditions quotation form.

By Peter Adediran

04/10/2019

Disclaimer Notice

This article deals with the effect of the Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No 2) Accessibility Regulations 2018 on small-medium business owners. If you are seeking advice on how to protect your business from potential lawsuits over website or mobile app regulatory compliance, you must take the opportunity to go and seek professional legal help from a solicitor or barrister. The information and any commentary on the law contained on this web site are provided free of charge for information purposes only. Every reasonable effort is made to make the information and analysis accurate and up to date, but no responsibility for its accuracy and correctness, or for any consequences of relying on it, is assumed by PAIL®Solicitors. The information and commentary do not and are not intended to amount to legal advice to any person on a specific case or matter. Obtain an accurate, personal opinion from a lawyer about your case or matter. Do not to rely on the information or comments on this site. We bear no responsibility for the content or accuracy of linked sites.

Comments are closed.

Scroll to Top