Many businesses have both physical and online locations that complement each other. For example, a business in the downtown area of a small California town can reach customers on the other side of the country who want handmade jewelry when it opens an e-commerce store. And because e-commerce often does not require physical locations calling for monthly rent payments, utilities and more, it’s common for a business to be only e-commerce. Whether your business is purely e-commerce or pairs an online store with one or multiple physical locations, it’s essential you get in touch with an attorney before you launch your online business location.
If for no other reason, you want to contact an attorney proactively just to have that connection in place if or when issues arise later. It will save you time and trouble down the road if you already have an attorney you trust.
Personal Asset Protection
Depending on the structure of your business, you might be liable personally if you get sued and the other party prevails; likewise if you are unable to repay business loans or to pay taxes. Contacting an attorney helps you take out safe loans and develop a business structure that protects your personal assets.
Website Terms and Conditions
E-commerce websites deal with products and/or services, and as in every other venture, returns, refunds or lost items will happen at some point. E-commerce websites also frequently like to collect customer information and may focus on minors. Privacy disclosures, customer behavior on blogs and forums, and possible copyright infringements are potential issues to deal with. When you contact an attorney, you ensure your website terms and conditions cover all of the bases, greatly limiting your liability.
Advertising and Marketing
This link leading to the Federal Trade Commission website provides valuable basics on the legal dos and don’ts of online advertising and marketing. For example, you should display disclosures before customers make the decision to purchase (before adding items to their shopping carts, for instance). There is a lot of information to know, and it is your responsibility to ensure that your marketing and advertising is all legally compliant. Even with pure intentions, it’s common for mistakes to slip through. Consulting with an attorney who reviews your website before it launches goes a long way toward ensuring your website is on the up and up.
Taxes are no fun, but they are most likely required for your business. Check with an attorney about the taxes your e-commerce website will owe.
If you work alone or with a spouse, you can skip this reason. If you do hire employees or contract with employees, though, consult an attorney to ensure you are following fair and legal practices in job descriptions, hiring, and laws governing contractors, pay, employee safety and potential discrimination. An attorney can also explain how to deal with an at-will employee, which is the most common type.
Whether you plan to collect customer payments via debit cards, credit cards, third-party services and/or other methods, an attorney can help you decide if your collection methods make sense. In addition, an attorney makes sure you follow banking regulations.
Leases and Purchases
If you are buying or renting physical space to serve as, say, a warehouse or an office for your e-commerce website business, an attorney can help you review lease or purchase agreements. Often, an attorney will point out issues that benefit you but landlords or sellers would never suggest because they want to retain the advantage.
Your e-commerce website will likely deal with contracts, even if you do not rent or purchase space. For example, you may want a product warranty or supplier contract. Talking with an attorney aids in the preparation of the best contracts possible and helps you follow state laws governing contracts.
If you don’t already have an attorney for your online business, seek one out ASAP.
The content on our website is only meant to provide general information and is not legal advice. We make our best efforts to make sure the information is accurate, but we cannot guarantee it. Do not rely on the content as legal advice. For assistance with legal problems or for a legal inquiry please contact you attorney.