E-commerce – the legal considerations

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E-commerce – the legal considerations


There are lots of legal considerations and I've tried to include some

of the main ones. Although e-commerce can mean a lot of things, here

I've related it to actually selling items on a website (although a lot

of the legal considerations would need to be considered even if you

were not selling on the web.

Data protection considerations


The Data Protection Act lays down lots of rules that must be adhered

to. If this is a website for a company that is already trading and

keeps customer data then they should already be registered with the

Information Commissioner but you may need to review what's been

registered. The main points you need to consider is that for any data

you collect on the site you must:

· Deal fairly with the info

· Tell the customer what data you collect

· Tell them what you are going to do with it

· Keep it safe and secure

This should be set out in the website's terms and conditions (and you

should link to it at the main point where you collect the data)

Website terms and conditions


The site must have comprehensive terms and conditions and you will

need to link to these wherever applicable (eg if you are selling there

should be a check box that the consumer ticks to say "I have read the

terms and conditions etc etc". Things the terms and conditions should

contain include:

· Data protection act considerations (as explained above)

· Terms and conditions of use including copyright notice, general

disclaimer, liabilities (or non-liabilities – especially in terms of

credit card fraud)

· Full name, address, email etc of the trader, VAT number, Company

number, member of trade organisation (if you are selling)

· A clear privacy policy explaining what you do with information

collected on the site. This privacy policy must also set out if you

use cookies on the site and what you use them for. This is all topical

at the moment with the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regs 2003

· A clear "conditions of sale" which includes details of when the

contract is actually formed (ie the order represents the offer and the

email back confirming dispatch represents the acceptance) - avoid any

mistakes like the Argos TV for £3.99

· Clear returns policy


... middle of paper ...

... encouraging more internet

sales. At the same time, credit card companies are including "credit

card fraud" insurance, again reassuring consumers

Mobile connectivity


Handheld PDA, WAP services and wireless hotspots are all making web

access easier

Intelligent sites and targeted marketing


Sites are becoming more technologically advanced allowing companies to

target customers with specific products depending on their recorded

preferences or previous buying habits. One of the best examples of

this is Amazon who instantly provide other book recommendations based

on your purchase or on the purchases of other customers who bought the

same book.

Similar data collection also allows companies to do targeted email

campaigns ensuring the right product is marketed to the right person

(well that's the intention anyway!!)

This practice is being taken one step further with Googles planned

g-mail which will automatically scan the content of a users personal

emails and then deliver further targeted mails based on their content

(but which is subject to a lot of criticism at the moment about

privacy rights)
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