Tips to Ensure You are Compliant with Online Laws

Staying compliant with online laws might seem expensive, but according to Insights For Professionals, a single non-compliance issue costs companies an average of $4 million. Meeting compliance obligations is one of the most challenging tasks modern businesses faces, especially those operating online. As an e-commerce business owner, you must comply with local and international online business rules relevant to your industry. Moreover, you need to meet regulations, like consumer data privacy, website accessibility, and electronic transaction processes.

To ensure you are on the right side of the law, you need to develop an effective compliance and security plan. Remember, complying with online regulations is key to protecting your e-commerce website from hackers, lawsuits, loss of customer trust, and financial damage. If you’re starting an e-commerce store or looking to expand an existing one, below are a few tips to ensure you’re compliant with online laws.

Stay on Top of Changing Rules

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Online laws are ever-changing, so being compliant isn’t something you do once. It’s a continuous task that involves monitoring changing e-commerce rules and regulations and identifying areas that affect your organization. This process also entails adjusting policies, implementing policy changes in your company, and tracking progress. With this in mind, make it a habit to research regulatory changes that apply to your industry. And then make an effort to stay up to date with those regulations. Typically, when you’re ready for upcoming regulation changes, you won’t feel stressed when new online rules are imposed.

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Comply with Website Requirements

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Whether your website is about sharing informative content or selling goods and services, you must provide detailed information regarding the brand or the person managing it. For instance, let’s say you’re running an online store that sells shoes. E-commerce legislation requires you to provide the company’s name, contact information, physical address, and product information. On top of that, you must share information about delivery and cancellation policy, how you advertise your products and services, how customers commit to pay, and how you form contracts.

Note that you can include all this information in the terms and conditions pages. Nonetheless, your website design, functionality, and content must meet online regulations. You may also want to run cookies to collect data from your site visitors to learn how they browse. Some cookies allow access to accounts, social media links, payment, and targeted marketing based on the site’s functionality. But before you can collect statistics on internet users, compliance experts recommend writing a cookie policy. Your cookie notice should provide a clear definition of what cookies are, the types of cookies you use, and how you use them on your site. Most importantly, make sure your site users give consent before you can use cookies to collect their data.

Have a Privacy Policy

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Data privacy has become a hot topic in recent years with the implementation of regulations like the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) and CCPA (California Consumer Privacy Act). While these regulations are unique, they have one fundamental requirement: all websites collecting personal information from consumers should have a privacy policy. But even if you’re not collecting data like phone numbers, addresses, names, and email addresses from site visitors, creating a privacy policy and placing a link to it on your site’s footer is highly recommended.

In essence, a privacy policy provides a clear explanation of how you use customer information. However, regulations like CCPA and GDPR require website owners to do more than creating a privacy policy. They expect online businesses to provide clients with a copy of their collected information. You should also be ready to delete your customers’ data upon request. It’s worth noting that besides being a significant part of e-commerce regulations in various countries, having a privacy policy is one of the most effective ways of establishing trust with customers.

Prioritize Consumer Data Protection

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Data protection is another vital online regulation you don’t want to overlook. As a business owner, you’re aware that a single data breach can cost your organization a lot of money and damage your business’s reputation. Additionally, you might face multiple lawsuits filed by your customers. Therefore, take adequate measures to protect your client’s personal information, such as credit card numbers, physical addresses, contact details, names, and social security numbers.

Even if you’re not collecting confidential data from consumers or processing payments, it pays to implement effective data protection techniques to keep your company information safe. This step entails updating your system’s software and investing in 24/7 monitoring services for your website. Equally important, encrypt data by incorporating an SSL certificate to reduce the risk of cybercriminals accessing it. Also, invest in a secure hosting platform. This ensures you know where your data is stored, and backup information collected and stored by your organization.

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Ensure Your Terms and Conditions are Transparent

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Although the terms and conditions page isn’t necessary for some countries, adding it to your website is a sure way of staying on the right side of the law. As the name suggests, the terms and conditions page defines your website policies from your delivery to the returns policy. Ideally, this part of your website covers core issues around your business. It includes liability, company laws and jurisdiction, and online content control.

Remember that writing clear terms and conditions can help limit your liability when customers file lawsuits against your business. In such circumstances, having terms and conditions on your website also gives you full authority to own the content you’ve published on the internet. Typically, the rules of your terms and conditions will depend on the nature of your trade. However, it must include a disclaimer limiting your responsibility in case of an error, a copyright notice, a cookie consent policy, pricing and payment terms, and order cancellation rules.

Protect Your Website Content

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Sharing new and informative content is key to running a successful website. And while publishing content written by other individuals might seem like an ideal way to accomplish this goal, it’s not. Using other people’s videos, images, texts, or audio without their consent can have profound legal implications. To avoid copyright issues, make sure you’re not copying content from other sites. Instead, hire professional content creators to write original content or rewrite existing content to make it authentic.

If you must use videos, texts, or images already published online, make it a habit to ask permission from the creators. For example, if you want to use images available online, make sure you download licensed free stock images from authentic websites like Shutterstock or Getty Images. Alternatively, buy images to avoid legal issues that may result in financial loss and a bad reputation. Likewise, you need to protect your content from people who may try to copy and publish it on their website.

To keep your content secure and compliant, you should copyright your website correctly and add a notice on the footer. This tactic protects you from copyright infringement in a situation where someone copies and reuses your images, text, or videos. In addition to placing a copyright statement on your site, archive your website using digital solutions.

According to David Clee, the CEO of Mirror Web, “Archiving your gated or public website is an excellent way to support your regulatory, preservation, and compliance obligation. That’s because digital website archive solutions capture, index, store, and replay your content in an easy-to-access SaaS platform. That way, your electronic records stay compliant, thus improving your digital conduct and ensuring you’re always ready for audits within a short deadline.”
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Don’t Forget Payment Compliance

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If you’re processing payments on your site, you must comply with PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards). Most credit card companies imposed these regulations to protect consumers and business owners involved in any online transaction. PCI standards cover POS and transactions completed online, card-over-phone purchases, and other card-not-present payments. To ensure you’re compliant with Payment Card Industry Standards (PCI), you need to do more than create an encrypted and secure checkout experience. Your legal obligation entails erasing your clients’ payment history shared via phone and on paper.

It’s worth noting PCI DSS isn’t a legal requirement. But, you risk facing serious implications if you fail to follow its protocol. For example, let’s say your organization suffers a data breach. And investigations reveal that you haven’t been compliant with Payment Card Industry Standards. You’ll be subject to insurance claims, fines, and lawsuits. As a result, you’ll lose a vast amount of money, consumer trust, and business credibility.

Online compliance may sound expensive, but it’s not compared to non-compliance. When you comply with online rules and regulations, you protect your personal or company website from cyber threats. You also reduce the risk of being sued by your customers, hurting your business finances, and destroying your company’s reputation. With this understanding, make an effort to comply with all e-commerce regulations imposed in your region and internationally. Make sure your website is compliant with data security, payment standards, and consumer data privacy. Also, ensure your terms and conditions are transparent and have a cookie notice policy. This helps your site visitors understand the information you collect from them and how you use it.

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Article Published by Souvik

SouvikWeb Developer & SEO Specialist with 15+ years of experience in Open Source Web Development specialized in Joomla & WordPress development. He is also the moderator of this blog "RS Web Solutions".

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