Internet offers endless business opportunities and amazing flexibility, yet laws do extend not only to the good old offline ventures, but to e-businesses too and like it or not, they should be obeyed.

The applicable regulations however tend to be neglected sometimes leading to legal vulnerability of the respective business, disputes or simply customer dissatisfaction.

Some of the most common mistakes related to legal compliance of online businesses that I have seen in my practice include:

1. The Copy/Paste Sin

Terms and Conditions or Privacy Policy have been copied from the internet and are not fully applicable to the case. In many situations they are not even followed by the business owner himself.

twin trees
Source: Ryan Mahoney

2. Forgetting the Change

Changes in operations and customer service have not been reflected with a respective modification in the Terms and Conditions, Privacy Policy or other legal documents. Even changes in the applicable laws are not reflected by the Terms.

3. It`s all about the Contract

No written contracts have been concluded with the website developer, content providers, logo designers, etc. to clearly set the intellectual property rights to these works. In case of intellectual property dispute you need to be able to prove two basic things about the disputed work – who created it (i.e. you or someone hired by you) or when was it created (i.e. before the other party is claiming they created it).

4. Protect the Consumer

Consumer protection is granted to individuals worldwide and online business need to respect that. Consumer protection requirements have not been complied with, e.g. no Right of Withdrawal has been observed.

5. ID, please

As long as you do business online, EU Directives and the respective national laws, require you to provide information about yourself – e.g. name, address, e-mail, VAT registration, etc. Many times no information that identifies the provider has been posted online.

6. SPAM? No thanks.

spam
Source: Sean MacEntee

There are different unsolicited commercial messages regulation approaches worldwide – often it depends whether the addressee is a legal or natural person, in some countries you need to check registers of persons who do not wish to receive such messages, before you send spam, in others you need to have obtained the explicit consent of the person beforehand, etc. It is quite too often to send illegal spam messages.

7. We (heart) Privacy

The EU has to some extend strict regulations regarding the protection of privacy and personal data of individuals. Sometimes those requirements are forgotten – natural person are not informed about the type of data collected, the aims of its collection and processing, etc. Personal data controllers have not been registered with the respective national authorities when needed. Transfer of data is done to countries outside the EU illegally.

8. Cosmopolitan

cosmopolitan
Source: Ralph Daily

Imagine a company is located in London, its servers are in the US, its customers in both the EU and the USA and its HR is outsourced to a HR company in India. Which law is then applicable to that business? International issues are sometimes neglected, such as applicable law and jurisdiction, but complex issues need in depth analysis and complex approach.

As you can see, you cannot mess with the law, even if you have an online business. So, do not be the bad guy, put things right and fix your legal stuff. Months or years from now you are going to thank me for this advice.

*Featured Image Source: Patrick McFall

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