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Published On: Mon, Dec 18th, 2017

5 Legal Risks the Online Environment Brought Us

I was so excited before launching my new eCommerce website. It’s the new way to get rich. Why shouldn’t I benefit too?

I thought it would be effortless and a fast way to make my fortune.I got my merchandise together and was ready to launch my site.

Luckily my eye caught a headline about an online retailer getting sued. I froze. I realized it has all been too easy.

Because online business is such a novice and modern idea I tend to forget it still resembles any normal company.

And that includes rights, legalities and rules.

So let me help you get it right before someone charges you for fraud.

photo/ public domain photos via pixabay

Keep it Original

You can be charged for stealing other people’s creations. Patents are things we all think about when manufacturing something.

But what about things created online:

Name: Make sure the name you use isn’t someone else’s. And you don’t have any excuse for getting this wrong. There are many online tools to help you find out about the competition.

Content: Never use content you found on another website or document. Apart from infringing on someone’s creative authorship, Google’s algorithms will notice your content isn’t original. It will lower your Google rating instantly.

Reviews: You can’t customize your clients’ reviews to suit your goals. If you’re reporting on what someone said or wrote, make sure it’s true.

Take a moment to view your online activities objectively. It’s so public. You can’t be caught lying or stealing. Your reputation determines your success. Can you risk damaging it?

Do You Respect Privacy?

Do you invade people’s privacy without knowing it? You can be charged for doing this.

Email marketing is one of the most effective marketing tools. But one email can ruin your business.

Do you hate all the SPAM emails you get? Other people do too. Do you fear your personal information may be used for fraud? Everyone does.

This is why strict laws were put in place regarding usage of people’s email addresses. The country you live in will have unique ones, but in general everyone must adhere to these rules:

You can only send emails to people who agreed to receive your messages. You can’t obtain contact details from a friend, competitor or business partner and start sending off messages. In the following situations you’re still within legal bounds:

Emailing any person you’re in process of doing business with.

Messaging people who made inquiries and you’re still in process of answering them.

Your emails need to include the following:

Who the email is from.

Confirmation that it’s a marketing email.

Your physical address.

Make sure your heading is relevant and not misleading.

A way to opt out of the mailing list.

The moment someone requests to be taken off a mailing list, you have to act. Sending future emails to this person means you’re breaking a privacy law.

Is it time to audit your email marketing?

Do You Protect Information?

I’m careful about who I trust with my information. I usually vet a company before I supply personal or credit card detail.

Can you risk having a reputation of not looking after your customers’ information? This will happen if your customers’ information is shared with other companies or leaked online.

This becomes a legal issue if your website declares certain standards that you don’t really adhere to. You’ll see eCommerce and online betting sites quoting their security standards. And if they don’t keep to it customers are able to sue them.

Are You Truthful?

How much sales language do you use on your website?

If someone physically enters a store you can showcase your merchandise or services. But now you have to use words and images to get someone to commit to a sale. This leads many eCommerce companies to bend the truth.

If you do any of these you put yourself at risk of being charged for fraud:

         Lying about a product’s capabilities

         Not being clear about tax implications

         Unclear outlining of warranties or guarantees

Perhaps we all need a good lawyer as part of our marketing teams.

Protect Yourself

Does this make you feel exposed and even scared to continue your online business? This isn’t my intention. This is supposed to empower you to be more effective—and protected—in your endeavors.

The good news is that laws protect you as much as consumers. Add these to your website so you move inside legal guidelines and stay safe:

         Clearly outline what happens if an order isn’t received by a client. The problem can be with you or a courier. Make sure you cover all eventualities.

         Do you state in what areas you can deliver? Don’t create expectations you can’t meet.

         You must state who is allowed to use your site such as selling items not meant for under aged individuals.

         Do you also dread the “Agree” box on almost every website you use? This isn’t gimmick. The website owners know their futures depend on it. Stating terms and conditions limits what you can be sued for. When clients agree to it, it’s as good as signing a contract.

Today I have all these clearly outlined. It makes for a bit more reading for my clients, but it makes me sleep better at night.

No, you don’t often hear about online businesses being sued. That’s why it’s easy to ignore legal aspects. All the sales and information you want are just a few clicks away. But when something goes wrong it’s even worse than in a normal setup. It’s public. Whether you suffer under legal costs or negative online reviews, you’ll feel the impact. Prevent this today.

Author: Clarissa Caouette

About the Author

- Outside contributors to the Dispatch are always welcome to offer their unique voices, contradictory opinions or presentation of information not included on the site.

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