A woman using e-commerce

Legal Risks in E-Commerce and Addressing Disputes in Online Business

These days, it seems like everyone in the world is engaging in e-commerce. The dry cleaners you have been using for years may suddenly accept Bitcoin as a form of payment. Similarly, the family-owned pharmacy down the street may have created a website to allow people to make purchases online and pick them up at the front counter.

E-commerce is a valuable way to make money. But it also creates new risks that many business owners are unfamiliar with. If you are entering the world of e-commerce, consider the following risks and methods for dealing with disputes involving those risks.

Data Privacy

Government regulations regarding data privacy have stiffened considerably in the past decade, in great part because of lax privacy by many businesses engaging in e-commerce. If you collect data that you intend to keep beyond a single transaction, you should be aware of potential problems.

The first problem is the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). This regulation only affects the personal data of EU residents, but that could be anyone using your service. To comply with this legislation, you must get explicit consent for data collection, have robust security, and give owners of the data the right to erase it at will. A similar regulation applies to California residents.

There are two good ways to prevent disputes. The first is to delete all data as soon as any transactions are complete (except for any data you are required to keep due to state or federal regulations). The other option is to implement robust data security and comply with the strictest regulations.

Intellectual Property

Another problem that commonly arises in e-commerce is intellectual property infringement. There are several reasons this could occur.

Counterfeits or Knockoffs

If your platform sells products that you don’t create, some of those products may be fake. It is a lot easier for someone to market a fake product online than in person. 

To avoid this outcome, you should carefully investigate any product you are selling or providing a platform for. If it seems fishy, don’t market it. And if someone claims they were scammed, the best way to resolve the dispute is by refunding them immediately. That prevents you from potentially being named in a lawsuit.

Copyright or Trademark Infringement

E-commerce websites are often created by third parties. This means the media is created by a third party. Unfortunately, not all of that media is legit.

You may discover that some artwork or text on your website has been copied from an artist or writer without their permission. Usually, you will learn about this when you get a request to remove it under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). What you do next is important.

If you ignore this request, you could open yourself to liability. Typically, the way to respond is by immediately removing the contested media and then investigating. You might find that the DMCA request was bogus, and your only consequence is not having the media for a few days.

That is a much better result than when you refuse to take it down only to later discover that the request was legitimate. In that situation, you may be named in a lawsuit because you refused to comply when given a legitimate request.

Protect Yourself From Modern Risks

Modern commerce comes with modern risks. Even the most astute business owner probably isn’t familiar with all the laws and risks associated with e-commerce. To protect yourself and your business, you should consult with an experienced attorney. If a dispute harms your business, a personal injury lawyer at Kohan Law Group in Nassau County can help you understand your legal options.