Online retail isn’t governed by a separate body of law that was drafted specifically for the world wide web. Although legislation has been drafted to regulate electronic transactions or data protection, generally the laws that apply to the purchase of goods or services offline are the same as they would be online. If you are an electronic retailer or e-tailer, here are a few golden rules to keep in mind.
Protect Your Brand
Often your brand will be the primary factor that differentiates you from the competition. In legal terms, your brand could be made up of the signs you use to identify your business. This could be a business name, a logo or a slogan. The main ways to protect your brand online is by registering your domain name or registering a trade mark.
Understand the IT Infrastructure
A thought that may not have crossed many e-tailers minds relates to the IT systems you have in place to operate your business. IT systems are fundamental to keeping your business afloat because, without them, you wouldn’t be able to trade.
It’s important to understand your contractual relationship with IT service providers, for example, web hosting services or merchant providers. You should have a thorough understanding of an IT service provider’s terms and conditions, particularly when it comes to intellectual property ownership, security, downtime, disaster recovery and backup procedures.
Comply with Australian Consumer Laws
Your business terms and conditions are crucial to defining the terms between you and your customers. This will assist you in setting out your terms relating to payment, delivery, refunds and cancellations. This will also allow customers to feel confident and secure in your store’s legitimacy.
Get a Legal Clearance
The content on your website is subject to multiple laws. Getting a legal clearance generally means looking through your website’s content to determine that it is compliant with Australian Consumer Law and to ensure that you are not providing misleading or deceptive representations. It may also be useful to look at the way your website operates, for example whether users can post reviews or comments on the products and the level of control you have over this. This may have other legal implications such as defamation or copyright infringement.
Be Equipped for Purchases From Overseas
If your store is online, it is possible that you will have customers who are not in Australia. It will be helpful to have business terms and conditions that note that a customer’s access to your website is lawful in their country. This will assist to limit your liability in the event of a dispute.
The above points only provide a snapshot of the legal considerations of an e-tailer. It’s important to do further research, so you understand your obligations as an owner of an online business.
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