With the rapid growth of digitalization of operations, budding entrepreneurs are gradually moving their businesses online. Although shifting from in-person to digital isn’t always easy, the COVID-19 pandemic challenged businesses like never before.

Throughout the outbreak, social distancing was enforced in several countries, making it harder for companies to operate. Business owners had to think outside the box, reconsider the way with which they interacted with their customers, fine-tune their services, and, in certain cases, pivot to carrying out their business exclusively online.

While the long-term outlook of the pandemic is still highly uncertain, the business’s continuity remains crucial. This is why, taking your business online can be a great strategy to overcome the current obstacles and offer an alternative customer base and source of income.

With so much to arrange, the key legal considerations for moving your business online often end up being an afterthought. To make things easier, we’ve put together 5 things you need to be mindful of if you’re planning on moving your business online:

  1. Adopt a comprehensive privacy policy.

When moving your business online, having a solid privacy policy is something you should strongly consider. In essence, a privacy policy is a legal notice providing information about the nature of personal data that is collected, the reasons why the data is collected, and how such information is being used.  Your privacy policy is supposed to provide your users with a brief, transparent, understandable, and easily reachable form written in a clear and plain language.

In addition to helping businesses improve their operations and gain their customers’ trust, maintaining a privacy policy is required by law in several industries and jurisdictions. Under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) for example, businesses are required to protect the personal data and privacy of the European Union (EU) citizens for transactions that occur within EU member states, and for the exportation of personal data outside the EU. Identical laws and regulations exist in many non-European countries as well.

  1. Use internet or web cookie pop-ups.

A computer cookie, also referred to as an “HTTP cookie” or web cookie, is “a small text file that contains a unique ID tag, placed on your computer by a website. The website saves a complimentary file with a matching ID tag. In this file various information can be stored, from pages visited on the site, to information voluntarily given to the site. When you revisit the site days or weeks later, the site can recognize you by matching the cookie on your computer with the counterpart in its database” (Sheridan, 2010).

In other words, cookies help you identify visitors, and enhance marketing growth by providing information on how potential customers are reaching your website. They provide you with valuable insight into what is making or breaking your sales path and how to improve your marketing techniques.

According to the GDPR, websites should be secure and follow prescribed ‘data privacy breach’ procedures. When it comes to the use of cookies, the website should get the users’ consent, provide detailed information about the purpose of the data collected by each cookie, and give users the ability to control any non-essential cookies.

Although annoying, banners or pop-ups notifying users of cookies are thus mandatory and should be easily spotted by users.

  1. Prepare and update your terms and conditions.

Among other requirements, it is important to set rules for how visitors can and can’t use your website. This is what your terms and conditions stand for. By accepting and ticking the tiny box “I’ve read and accepted the terms and conditions”, your website’s users are entering into an agreement with your business and abiding by your rules. In that sense, terms and conditions act as a legally binding contract that averts users from abusing your service, limits liability, and establishes any ownership in your trademarks, content, copyrights, and other intellectual property.

This is why it’s very important you get your terms properly in order. Make sure to constantly amend your website or mobile application’s privacy policy, cookies policy, and terms and conditions in order to be compliant with all new digital and online regulations such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Protection Act (CCPA).

  1. Protect your website’s intellectual property (IP), and respect other website’s IP.

A website’s content, design, and function are valuable assets to your business. They reflect the company’s image, identity, and values.

Aside from standard terms that address liability disclaimers and privacy terms, the first thing to be aware of when designing and building your website “is whether you own the website presentation and content and every aspect of IP in it” (WIPO).

When designing and building a website, it is important to take the necessary legal steps that ensure that your business’s own IP rights are fully protected and that you do not infringe on other businesses’ IP rights.

If you intend to include the works of third parties on your website (whether through reproduction, adaptation, or communication), it is important to access their terms and conditions to determine whether you are authorized to or not.

  1. Set-up your payment gateway.

If you’re moving your business online, you will need an online payment system, allowing your customers to pay for your products and services directly and easily. This needs to be done in a secure way and must be connected to your businesses’ bank account. If you don’t have a legal entity or a bank account enabling you to receive payments online, you will probably need to consider this as your first step towards moving online. The process of getting this done is relatively simple, and in most cases, only takes a few days.

 

To sum up, if you plan on moving your business online, make sure you familiarize yourself with everything mentioned in this article to avoid any unpleasant surprises in the future. You can always book an online consultation with a lawyer on Lexyom to discuss the particular needs of your business.