Starting or running an online store is more complex than it appears. There are various aspects and different issues to consider. However, there is always a limited amount of time and budget. For this reason, the legal considerations often get ignored or put on the to-do list.

By online store we mean every supplier providing goods and services by way of an electronic transaction. Sometimes they are also called web stores, online shops or e-tailers (short for electronic retailers). A website with a shopping cart facility (basket and checkout) from which goods or services can be purchased (hired or exchanged) directly is an online store. Electronic transactions include not only transactions conducted via a website but also transactions concluded by email and SMS. Therefore a vendor that concludes transactions (in whole or in part) by email or SMS is also an online store. These vendors often have a brochure or catalogue website. Goods and services cover everything. Everything that can be provided is either goods or services. So widgets, books, stationary, CDs are goods. Services include information services and Software as a Service (SaaS).

What are the laws that Apply?

Well, let us have a look at what the legal considerations relating to an online store are?  Here is a list of some of the laws:

  1. Consumer protection laws. The Electronic Communications and Transactions Act (ECT Act) contains provisions relating to consumer protection in the case of an electronic transaction. The Consumer Protection Act that commenced on 1 April 2011 also has a direct impact.
  2. With regard to privacy and the protection of personal information, the ECT Act also contains relevant provisions, which will be replaced by the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPI), which was enacted in November 2013.

How we can help

Interested?

If you are interested, please complete the form on the right or enquire now. We will contact you to find out more about your requirements and give you a quote.

How will it help you?

  • Make money by ensuring that your customers have your trust and confidence – customers will only buy online if they trust you and your online store. Many consumers are still reluctant to buy online.
  • Manage your risks. For example, what happens if one of your products is incorrectly priced? What happens if a product that has been ordered is out of stock? When does the actual transaction take place?
  • Protect your intellectual property – you’ve spent a lot of time designing and developing your store, so it’s worth ensuring that you protect that asset.
  • Comply with the laws that apply to online stores. For example, the law requires that various corporate information appears on your online store. Failing to comply with the law can have various different consequences. You will be surprised how many laws there are that relate directly to online stores. There are also many laws that are in the pipeline and that will also apply in the near future.

Legal Notices for an Online Store

  • Website Terms of Use – or the publicly available aspects of the website.
  • Terms and Conditions or Customer Relationship Terms. Some people call these Terms of Service, Terms of Use, or Terms of Sale. Whatever you call them, they manage the relationship with your customer.  You also want the terms to be broad enough to cover the provision of both goods and services. They deal with issues like the use of the online store, the protection of the website and intellectual property, the disclaimer of warranties, the giving of guarantees, the limitation of liability, the applicable law, and the conclusion of the actual agreement.
  • Return Policy specifying the manner in which products can be returned.
  • Privacy Policy is also essential. It should specify in detail what personal information about your customers you collect and how you process it in order to fulfil their orders. It is also the mechanism by which you obtain the consent of your customers to process their personal information.
  • Security Policy sets out the security measures that you have in place regarding your online store.
  • Copyright Notice should appear in the footer of your online store to ensure that people are aware that all of your rights relating to your online store are reserved.

Email templates for an online store

  • Acknowledgement of receipt.
  • Offer Rejection.
  • Order confirmation.

Sure, you could copy and paste the legal notices from another online store. The problem with this though is that you will be infringing somebody else’s copyright, the legal notices might not protect you and they may well be out-of-date. Further, if you try to amend them yourself, you don’t know that the amendments will be correct. You want to do it properly. Most people do because they understand the importance, but it’s the budget that’s a problem. The budget simply does not allow for it. Well, that was until now.

Comply with the law

These notices comply with the latest laws (including the Consumer Protection Act, the ECT Act and POPI). Both the ECT Act and the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) protect the consumer. In fact, the ECT Act gives consumers greater protection when it comes to electronic transactions.