101 Online Retail Legal Obligations

By Zachary Swan | 21 Sep 2016

Introducing your business to new markets and the world wide web exposes you to greater legal risk. Learn how to protect your online store from a legal perspective.

Whether you’re starting out, or you’re a bricks-and-mortar store seeking new customers, it’s important for all Australian online retailers to be aware of their legal obligations.

Having the right legal framework in place will safeguard your business and protect the online transactions that takes place between you and your customers.

A good online retail legal framework also shows your consumers that your webstore is safe and secure. According to the 2016 Sensis eBusiness Report released last week, security was highlighted as a major concern and a barrier for consumers using e-Commerce.

Not sure what you need in place to legally safeguard your business and your customers transactions? Here are some of the basics you need to consider when launching an online store.

Terms and Conditions

A website’s terms and conditions sets out your store’s service standards and the rules that users must follow when using your website. Under Australian Consumer Law, it is a legal requirement that if you’re selling goods online, your website must contain your business’s terms and conditions.

Your online customers will not only be using your website to purchase your products, they will also use it to find out more about you and your business. If information, like your website’s terms and conditions, is not easily accessible and presented in an easy-to-follow manner, customers are less likely to make a purchase.

Return and Refunds Policy

The return and refunds policy for online retailers must be clearly accessible on your website. Without this policy in place, most Australian banks will not allow you to open an account for your store.

By setting out your online store’s return and refunds policy, delivery of goods, consumer guarantees and disclaimers, you’re able to increase your consumers trust in your webstore.

It’s recommended that you seek legal advice about the terms required for your online store, as different products are subject to different standards.

Privacy Policy

Consumers are increasingly cautious and concerned about how companies collect and store their personal information. Consumer data privacy is important and it must be protected.

By running an online store you will have access to your customers’ personal information, including their address, contact and financial details. Protecting this information is vital, especially when it comes to their transaction details.

Under the Privacy Act, online retailers are legally required to have a privacy policy. A privacy policy outlines how your business will deal with the personal information it collects on consumers. This includes what information you will collect, how it will be collected, how it will be used by your business and whether it will be shared with third parties.

Having a privacy policy in place helps show your online consumers that your business is transparent and committed to protecting their personal information.

As consumers are increasingly using their mobile phone to make purchases, you may be considering creating a mobile application for your online retail store. In this case, you will need a mobile privacy policy and mobile terms and conditions of use, specifically tailored to the needs and actions of smartphone users.

Intellectual Property

As an online retailer your brand is everything. Protecting your intellectual property and distinguishing your products from your competitors is one of the keys to make your business stand out in the marketplace.

A well designed and recognisable trademark, such as a logo or name, can be a valuable asset for your business. Trademarks are an effective way to promote and safeguard your brand, by preventing competitors from any unauthorised use. As the owner of the trademark, you will have the exclusive right to use, sell and licence it for a period of ten years.

If you’re marketing and selling your own designs, for example a fashion label, registering your designs is a good way to protect your business’s intellectual property. Although the costs of registering several designs can add up, registering them ensures that your designs are protected for a period of five years.

Intellectual property is a complex area so it’s advisable to consult an intellectual property attorney.


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