E-Commerce – How Do I Do Business Online?


E-Commerce is everywhere these days. The sale of goods online allows businesses to reach more customers and gives consumers access to a much wider range of products and services than ever before. E-Commerce makes it possible to buy and sell goods on a local, regional, national, and global scale. If your Mountain View-based business or tech startup is selling a product online, you have the potential to reap the benefits of a global client base. However, you should be aware of best legal practices for e-commerce transactions and ensure your business is adhering to the statutes and guidelines that govern online sales across applicable jurisdictions.

Who Governs E-Commerce in California?

Because e-commerce transactions might occur in any of the 50 states or nearly anywhere in the world, you should be aware of all of laws and regulations that might apply to your online business, including state, federal, and international rules, regulations and guidelines.

Like all commerce, e-commerce activity in the United States is regulated at the federal level by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC’s primary regulatory tool is the Fair Trade Commission Act. Because of the global nature of e-commerce, the Commission has also released a set of guidelines aimed specifically at cross-border e-commerce transactions and the businesses and consumers they affect. These guidelines are an important tool for measuring whether your business is “consumer-friendly” for international commerce.

Advertising and Marketing on the Internet

Digital marketing and advertising are powerful tools. In addition to selling goods online, you will probably want to use the internet to advertise your business and market to your clients. It’s important to remember that the same rules that govern other types of advertising also apply to online marketing. The FTC’s advertising guide states that all advertising “must tell the truth and not mislead consumers.”

Planning to email your customers? The FTC also regulates commercial electronic mail messages through the CAN-SPAM Act, which gives email recipients the right to opt out of email messages and modify the frequency and content of messages they receive from you. CAN-SPAM Act violations carry tough penalties, so be careful and be sure to consult with an attorney to comply with the requirements of the law.

How Do I Handle Private and Sensitive Customer Data?

E-commerce transactions almost always require customers to provide sensitive personal and financial data, and it is your responsibility as the online vendor to keep that data secure and private. Industry groups like the Payment Card Industry (PCI) have outlined standards to help businesses keep consumer data safe. The PCI Data Security Standard (DSS) is one such standard. You should prioritize PCI DSS compliance when storing, transmitting, and processing credit card and other payment data.

Likewise, you should draft up and post a privacy policy for your business on your website to inform consumers what data you might collect from them and how that data will be stored and used.  Most recently, companies with customers or a presence in the EU are legally obligated to comply with the ground-breaking, substantial General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) or face significant penalties and fines – the GDPR impacts companies of all sizes, from new startups to public companies, and there is a significant likelihood that your company must be GDPR compliant. Ensuring your privacy policy complies with local, federal, and international laws and protects customer data is critical to a legally compliance online or e-commerce business and will help you avoid costly penalties.

Speak with a Mountain View, California Lawyer Today About Your E-Commerce Business Legal Needs

Be sure your Mountain View online business is compliant with the rules and regulations governing e-commerce. Call Startup Company Counsel today at (408) 441-7555, or contact us online to set up a time to discuss your venture with an attorney experienced in e-commerce transaction law.

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