An Overview of the E-Commerce Regulations

By Cesar Beltran

As with all of the emerging digital networks that the modern world operates, e-commerce has found itself newly-regulated. That’s because, while some of the same rules apply as they did in the pre-digital world, there are some new challenges and issues raised by the world of online commerce.

As a business leader taking their company into the online space, it’s vital that you keep yourself abreast of the e-commerce regulations that’ll affect your company. Shopify experts are happy to deliver this advice to you on a business-by-business basis, but this article will go some way to introducing you to some of the more important regulations to be aware of as commerce shifts inevitably further into the online space. This article focuses on regulations in the US – one of the world’s largest and best-developed e-commerce markets.

Rapid Development and Adjustment

Before we launch into the overview of current regulations, it’s important to emphasize that the e-commerce market’s constant state of change has meant that regulations are unlikely to remain constant with time – it’s something you should always be keeping an eye on. Do this through industry insider news, or by liaising with Shopify experts who’ll be up-to-date on the latest in regulation across global markets. Bear in mind that:

  • Foreign regulations apply to your site if you sell to these markets
  • Some regulations affect the partners who help support your business
  • Global regulatory bodies are still deliberating on how best to regulate the e-commerce space
  • The sooner you can comply with soon-to-be-enacted regulations; the more competitive your e-commerce business will be
  • Failure to comply can be incredibly costly to your business – breaches should be avoided with extreme caution
  • Different countries have different regulations. There’s significant overlap, but there are also many unique regulations that you should familiarize yourself with.

GDPR

You may have noticed in recent months that websites you arrive on are presenting you with a pop-up tick-box request. This is a repercussion of the EU’s GDPR regulations – standing for General Data Protection Regulations. It’s a move by the European body to protect consumer data, and make consumers aware of the data your site is harvesting.

GDPR compliance is a serious business, and it spread across the world beyond the borders of Europe – the same rules apply for websites hosted in other continents – if the web page can be accessed in Europe, it must comply with GDPR, or it’ll be liable to penalties.

So, if your e-commerce site is in any way using consumer data to inform your approach – with cookies or other such data monitoring systems – you’re going to need to be GDPR compliant.

Other Data and Privacy Requirements

The EU isn’t the only regulatory body that’s concerned about citizens’ individual privacy on the internet. Unique rules also apply in the US, where consumers have filed suit successfully against e-commerce providers for the following privacy violations:

  • Breach of Contract
  • Fraud
  • False Advertising
  • Trespass
  • Unjust Enrichment

There are also state-specific laws that consumers are able to enact in their suits against you-you must be aware of all of these in order to avoid damaging legal battles that you are likely to lose if the consumer’s grievances are justified.

It is most imperative to abide by the privacy policy that you present on your website itself. That might sound like something that should be second-nature, but as your e-commerce site develops and changes over time, you’ll come to recognize the ease with which you can drift from a privacy policy drafted in the early days of your e-commerce venture.

Avoid ‘Spamming’

While email marketing campaigns are permitted by regulations – and encouraged by marketing executives who know it’s one of the most effective ways to generate repeat custom – it should never move into the realm of ‘spamming.’ Spamming can be very loosely defined as repeated emails that serve to frustrate and annoy individual consumers.

In order to ensure you’re avoiding the possibility of being accused of spamming, there are some simple steps that you can take, such as:

  • Including an unsubscribe button on your email – and following through on it being clicked by promptly deleting the individual concerned from your mailing list.
  • Labeling each and every message you send with the ‘advert’ tag – to ensure it’s not disingenuous or misleading.
  • Make sure your content can in no way mislead the consumer, and that all the information included in the email is correct and accurate.

Online Contracts

On first inspection, it might seem a little bizarre that in the modern world we trade without meeting our retailer or service provider face-to-face. In the pre-digital world, we’d negotiate and sign contracts in physical space – but in the e-commerce age, this must all be completed online.

Ensure that you’re complying with the requirements in place in your state or country in order to avoid getting in sticky legal situations in which some part of a contract isn’t finalized. This is especially important for B2B (business to business) e-commerce platforms, where larger amounts of money are traded on the internet without representatives meeting in person. 

Shopify web developers will help you incorporate all the legal requirements where document signing is concerned.

Outsource Your Compliance

In order to comply with e-commerce regulations, you’re going to have to dig quite deep into a number of laws that operate across different states, countries, and continents. It can be a lot simpler to engage with Shopify services – with experts who’ll be able to advise you as to where your e-commerce business should sharpen up its compliance with the world’s regulations.

And if you decide to partner with a provider like Shopify, then your whole e-commerce platform will be built upon compliant and adaptive systems, and with the wisdom of Shopify experts who’ve been in the game long enough to ensure your compliance – granting you peace of mind in which to focus on your business operations and the maximizing of your profits.

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Once again, thank you for keeping up to date with our Insider Blog @ Blackbelt Commerce. Be sure to check out our portfolio and our other great services.

Furthermore, we also have other terrific blog articles such as  What are the Vital Elements of Good E-Commerce? and  How to Create an E-Commerce Home Business. The importance of e-commerce in modern business — and eCommerce regulations We are Blackbelt Commerce, a TOP Shopify & BigCommerce developer.

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