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7 Legal Essentials for Business Online: Part 5 – Website Terms and Conditions

If you’ve been following this series of articles you’ll be aware that terms and conditions have been mentioned a couple of times in different contexts, and there is good reason for that. Creating an online business allows you to interact with people all over the world. You no longer have the relative security of watching someone walk through the front door of your store and being able to make a judgment about how you want to behave with them, and how you might expect them to behave.

In an online environment the space is open and accessible 24/7 and you don’t necessarily get to check out your customers before they go to buy. The beauty of being online is that you get to set your own rules, within the context of the laws you chose to apply to your website.  How does this work in practice?

If your business is here in Australia you don’t really want to get involved in a dispute somewhere the other side of the world. You particularly don’t want to get dragged into a court proceeding that is in America, where ridiculous damages claims appear to be the norm. As an aside, did you know that New South Wales is the second most litigious state in the World, behind California?

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7 Legal Essentials for Business Online: Part 4 – Consumer Protection Online

First rule of online business: Do Not Piss Customers Off – They Will Tell the Whole World!

Ok, so some people agree with the idea that any publicity is good publicity and if you’re in that camp, do what you will! For those of you who are concerned about the viability of your business and would rather see no comments on social media rather than negative comments, listen up.

Consumer law (trade practices/ fair trading) was consolidated and made consistent around Australia in 2012 and is now overseen by the ACCC rather than your local consumer affairs or fair trading office. Those offices still exist and continue to manage a raft of local legislation as well as investigating consumer complaints. This consolidation saw an increase in what was covered by consumer laws.

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7 Legal Essentials for Business Online: Part 3 – Online comments

For some reason a lot of people say things on social media and blog posts that they would never say in a letter to the editor in the traditional newspaper format. It’s an interesting phenomenon and one that will no doubt fuel all sorts of legal disputes for years to come.  With the fast pace of online interactions you might forget that your comments remain accessible online indefinitely for those who want to look, and if legal proceedings are involved, someone will be looking!

Did you hear the one about the woman in Western Australia who posted some unflattering comments about her ex-husband on Facebook? The comments were posted in December 2012 and taken down in January 2013. In the meantime a bunch of mutual acquaintances, including the man’s brother, saw the post. Court proceedings were filed and it wasn’t heard by a judge until 2015. Don’t assume that because you’ve forgotten about it, everyone else has too! The Judge decided in favour of the ex-husband and the woman was ordered to pay $12,500 in compensation as well as legal costs.

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7 Legal Essential for Business Online: Part 2 – Privacy Online

What is the big deal about privacy? Everyone gives all their personal information to companies like Facebook and Google, so why not give it to your business? Data privacy is a big deal, particularly in Europe and Cyber-crime is on the increase, or at least awareness of it is. If you collect information, then you are obliged to provide at least minimum protection against disclosure.

So who is covered? If you collect the contact details of your customers, you are collecting personal information which is protected under privacy laws.  If you are a small business, you may not have to comply with privacy laws, but if you want your customers to feel secure in giving you their information, it is advisable to comply.

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7 Legal Essential for Business Online: Part 1 – Copyright & Trademarks Online

Just because you can find it online, doesn’t mean it’s free!  Protect your business by having the right permissions for use of content on your website. If you create it yourself, you have less problems.

Software for the internet is so sophisticated and quick today that it is easy to find copied content. Companies that in the business of selling copyright, like Getty’s Images, automate their whole system so that they find the image you are using without permission, send you a letter demanding payment of a licence fee and follow up without necessarily needing human interaction.

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