Industry sector: Retail and wholesale

Art gallery: Legal matters


The following is an overview of important legislation that might be particularly relevant to your art gallery business. The list is not intended to be exhaustive.

Artists' resale rights

Legislation exists in the UK to protect artists' resale rights. If your gallery resells a picture or artifact, then a royalty may be due to the original artist (or to their heirs). It's your responsibility to pay the royalty fee to a collecting society such as the Design and Artists Copyright Society (DACS) or the Artists Collecting Society (ACS). More information about how the resale rights scheme works is available on the DACS and ACS websites.

Retailing and consumer protection

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

Detailed information for businesses about various aspects of consumer protection legislation is available on the Trading Standards Business Companion website. Information and guidance are also available on the Gov.uk website. Your local trading standards department should also be able to advise you if you have a specific query.

Carrier bag charge

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. 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. You can get detailed guidance about when the charge applies and your legal responsibilities as a retailer on the Welsh Government Carrier Bag Charge, Zero Waste Scotland and NI Direct websites.

A 5 pence charge applies in England, but small and medium-sized businesses (with fewer than 250 full-time equivalent employees) are exempt.

Consumer credit

If you offer credit facilities to consumers you must obtain consumer credit authorisation from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and comply with consumer credit legislation. Information about consumer credit authorisation and legislation is available on the FCA website.

Copyright legislation

As you will be dealing with intellectual property - other people's and possibly your own - you should be familiar with the requirements of copyright legislation. This is particularly important if you do things like make reproductions of other artists' originals for prints, posters and cards. You can find out more about copyright law on the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) section of the Gov.uk website.

Fire safety

All employers must comply with fire safety regulations - this means carrying out a fire risk assessment at your premises and putting in place fire precaution measures. These could include fire alarm systems and extinguishers as well as clearly signed escape routes. If you have five or more employees your fire risk assessment must be written down. You're responsible not only for the safety of your staff but also of anyone who might be on your premises, like customers or suppliers. The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government has produced several helpful guides for businesses. You can download these from the Gov.uk website. Information about fire regulations in Northern Ireland is available on the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service website.

Health and safety

You must also make sure that you comply with health and safety legislation. This covers all aspects of work place health and safety. Employers have a duty to ensure the health and safety at work of all their employees. Those with five or more employees must prepare a written health and safety policy statement. You should contact your local authority health and safety section for advice and guidance.

Further information and guidance leaflets on all aspects of health and safety are available on the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Health and Safety Executive Northern Ireland (HSENI) websites.

Employment legislation

Anyone employing staff must comply with employment legislation. Important pieces of legislation that you must be aware of include:

  • The Employment Rights Act
  • The National Minimum Wage Act
  • The Working Time Regulations

The employing people section of the Gov.uk website includes information and guidance on all aspects of employment legislation. Information for businesses in Northern Ireland is available on the NI Business Info website.

Equality and discrimination law

You must not discriminate against anyone because of their age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion, sex or sexual orientation. This applies to every aspect of your business operations, from taking people on to dismissing them. You may need to make reasonable adjustments to your premises and working arrangements so that you don't unfairly discriminate against disabled people.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission and Equality Commission for Northern Ireland websites contain further information on your legal duties.