Having an Internet business is the dream of many people. However, being your own boss also implies greater responsibilities , especially in the legal field. Every operator of an electronic commerce must be able to guarantee that his company and his offer are sufficiently safe and that his website complies with all the requirements stipulated by law. Many entrepreneurs are unaware of the fact that legal security (under which the products and services will be offered in your eCommerce) covers aspects that go beyond determining the legal form. Next, we present the most important components to guarantee the legal security of your online store ..
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As stipulated by Law 34/2002 on Services of the Information Society and Electronic Commerce (LSSI) , almost all web pages (with the exception of small private or family blogs) are required to make a legal notice available to your visitors. The legal notice, also known as Impressum, contains all the contact information of the online store (eg, customer service line, legal representative, CIF, among others) and, according to the regulations, it must be easily identifiable, accessible and must be available to users at all times . For the consumer, the legal notice is the first reference when they want to establish some type of contact with the seller, for example, when dealing with disputes or legal issues. For more information on the legal notice of an online store, visit our guide on the subject..
The general contracting conditions or terms and conditions are the basis of the legal security of any online store . As established by the LSSI, in Spain any web page that carries out any type of online contracting is obliged to offer the client information regarding the contracting process, before or after the purchase transaction or acquisition of services has been carried out. The terms and conditions of an online store include information and instruction clauses about its processes, rights and responsibilities. These are stipulated individually by each web operator and are based on the regulations, for example, in relation to claims for damages. For this reason, it is not allowed to copy or use the terms and conditions of another website for your online store, as it is also a text protected by copyright.
Spanish law protects the personal data and information of users with Organic Law 15/1999, of December 13, on the Protection of Personal Data (LOPD). According to this law, web page operators must inform their users about how to collect and handle their personal data, including the nature, scope and purpose of the information collection . For example, every user must be informed when their data is stored exclusively during the purchase process and when, therefore, they are transferred to external companies involved in the distribution process (eg, shipping or logistics service). In the same way, data protection applies to information obtained using monitoring tools (eg Google Analytics) or plugins (eg social media buttons). In the event that the data is transferred to third parties, as an online store operator you will need the explicit consent of the client..
Having a section that explains the return policy is an obligation for any online store, and it must not only be found on the website, but must be delivered to the customer once the order has been confirmed. This section is necessary, since in most cases, legal disputes are the consequence of a return policy that is not clear enough or that is incomplete. As a result, spending the necessary time on this section will save you trouble. European legislation provides the buyer with a withdrawal form , guaranteeing a period of 14 calendar days to be able to return a product. Both parties must give explicit proof of the process. In the event that the consumer has not been informed or that the return policy is incomplete, the period could be extended up to 12 months. Visit this page if you want to know more information about it.
For most merchants it is important, although not always easy, to offer the right online payment methods. The objective is to include those payment methods that generate a lower bounce rate during the purchase process. Legally, one of the most important aspects is to offer at least one payment option that does not entail additional costs . In the same way, it is necessary to specify to the client the entire extra amount for the use, for example, of one or another credit card. This information must be explicit during the purchase process and it is also recommended to have an additional page with explicit information about the payment methods and their costs.
In the event that the corresponding information is not provided, a customer could assume that the products offered will be available once the purchase has been made. However, this is not always the case, as some goods take longer to produce or are temporarily not in stock. As a consequence, it is recommended that within the description of each product or before finalizing the purchase, the consumer is informed whether the product will be sent immediately (that is, it will reach the customer in the next 5 business days) or if the shipping process will take a little longer. The consumer understands that not all online stores have all of their merchandise available and ready to be shipped. However, as an online store operator you will always be obliged to inform the customer if the shipment exceeds the 5 days stipulated by European law.
The golden rule for any online store is that prices are specific and correct . Regarding the prices of the products, it must be explicit if they include VAT or other taxes, or if this will be added at the end of the purchase. Additionally, the customer should always be provided with an estimate of the shipping costs.
Newsletters are a popular marketing tool and a relatively inexpensive tool for communicating with potential customers. Often, the subscription to the newsletter of an online store is done through an integrated form on the web based on the double opt in procedure . This method forces the user to verify (by clicking on a link that they will receive in a message in their email) if they really want to receive the newsletter. This also applies if the subscription is made through a channel other than the website itself. This prevents spam and the misuse of users' personal information by malicious people.
A final point to guarantee the legal security of an online store is copyright and, more specifically, the rights to images and product photos. It is very important to ensure the protection of copyrights and trademarks , as well as to use only your own photos, freely accessible or whose license has been officially acquired. This also applies to any type of multimedia content. For more information on this, visit our guide on image rights on the Internet.
As the owner of an online store, and to guarantee the legal security of your business, it is important that you offer your clients all the necessary legal information in a transparent and understandable way. Issues such as data protection are essential not only from a legal point of view, but also from a commercial and marketing point of view. This article aims to offer you an overview of the most important aspects, however, it will never replace the professional advice of an expert on the subject or a lawyer .