When the dot com boom started years ago, the internet was like the Wild West, with anyone and everyone trying any and everything to make money. That is the main reason the bubble burst so soon. Today there are laws and regulations in place to govern online business.
There are not too many, they are not too complicated and they are there for your own good. You need to know and understand the basics to avoid needless hassles as your online business progresses. Remember, ignorance of the law is not an excuse for breaking it. The first step is placing the mandatory notices on your site. Besides meeting the legal requirements, these notices help to create a professional look to your site and add to customer confidence.
• COPYRIGHT: Insert your copyright information at the bottom of each page. Ensure you include the word “Copyright” and the copyright symbol. The clause “All right Reserved” or “All Rights Reserved Worldwide” (depending on where you are selling) should be mentioned.
• DISCLAIMER: This should clearly state who may use the data on your website and for what purposes. You need to also state that you are not liable for any damages caused to a visitor to your site by either using or downloading your site data. You need to say that to the best of your knowledge that your site and its downloads are virus and spyware free, but that you are not liable for any viruses etc. that may be present.
Depending on what you are selling you may want to advise the visitor to consult an expert before using your products. For example, if you are selling health related items, you could advise that a doctor should be consulted before the products are used.
• TERMS OF SERVICE: Clearly state the terms and limitations you place on the use of your site and who may use it. Also state the age restrictions – in the US children under 13 need parental consent to use a website. In other parts of the world this age varies but it is usually 18. If you have any adult material or images on your site, state that the site is not for use by anyone below 18 years of age and those below that age should leave immediately.
• ADVERTISING: There are strict Federal Trade Commission regulations regarding online advertising. Failure to follow these may land you in jail! To know more visit- http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/buspubs/dotcom/index.html.
• MARKETING: If you are doing any form of email marketing each email you send out has to contain your physical address and well as a way for the recipient to stop receiving further emails form you. This is also governed by FTC rules and you can find out more from- http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/edcams/spam/rules.htm and also http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/edcams/spam/business.htm.