Online fashion companies are breaching legal obligations and risking penalties and adverse publicity as a result of their websites not meeting basic legal requirements according to a new survey.

The survey of well-known UK fashion websites by solicitor Fox Williams found that many businesses are failing to comply with basic on-line laws.

It found that 88% of websites collect data about users via input forms, such as when users register with the site to make a purchase or simply to feedback comments. By law, these companies are required to notify their details and the purposes for which they collect this information to the Information Commissioner.

However, the survey found that 42% of companies that collect personal data have not notified under the Data Protection Act.

The websites surveyed faired even worse in respect of other basic requirements of the Data Protection Act. While 70% of the websites provided a privacy policy, only 36% of sites contained the required information about the use of cookies.

Nigel Miller, Fox Williams e-business partner, said: "The low levels of legal compliance are astonishing. Our survey shows that even well-known brands are failing to consider the legal implications of doing business online or simply having a website."

Some legal requirements are simple to comply with - such as the need for a website to contain details of the full company name, registered office, registered number and VAT number.

Yet the survey found 33% of sites do not even give their full legal name and 64% of sites do not contain their VAT number.

The survey also looked at compliance with the Distance Selling Regulations, which give consumers an unconditional right to return goods purchased online, but found 42% of sites are ignoring the requirements concerning cancellation and returns.

Overall, the survey suggests that fashion companies are giving a very low level of priority to ensuring that their websites comply with basic legal diligence.

This is the case even where company directors could in some cases face criminal liability for non-compliance.