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International eCommerce Legal Considerations

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Navigating International Legalities within Your Market

International eCommerce is extremely complicated due to the fact that different countries and regions have specific legal rules, regulations and necessary processes to allow business operation. Each jurisdiction or area may have established unique requirements that govern the following:

  • Applicable taxes
  • Customs duties
  • Laws around shipping and refunds
  • Fraud detection methods
  • Privacy policies

You may have a certain degree of choice in regard to what policies you decide to implement as a business, considering privacy and the overall legal impact of your practices. Some areas also have general regulations in place, like GDPR (General Data Protection Rule), the CalOPPA (California Online Privacy Protection Act), and PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard). If the site uses specific healthcare data or other sensitive financial information, there could be additional financial or healthcare industry regulations you will need to comply with, like HIPAA. Ultimately, there are a lot of legalities to consider with your international eCommerce presence, including terms and policies, that are absolutely critical to pay attention to from a business perspective.

There's nothing like having a successful operation in place which ends up getting shut down because a competitor happens to notice that your international eCommerce site is not complying with legal regulations in a particular region. The related fines, penalties, interests and fees will be devastating. Not complying with standard terms and legal requirements can pose a significant risk to the health of your business. That being said, following the legal requirements isn't necessarily overcomplicated. Much of the groundwork involves a basis of simply understanding these legal requirements, how they work, and going into detail around how each of the regions or countries specifically interpret and apply law across the different areas.

Protecting your Business & Users

Working with a Legal Professional to Achieve Optimal Adherence to Requirements

One of the actions that we certainly recommend is collaboration with an adept legal counsel for those different regions of interest to your business. Many legal counsels specialize in eCommerce, so there's no reason why you can't engage a specialized professional within a particular location. You can also use online tools for vetting legal counsels to find an appropriate partner in the areas you don't have a physical presence. Generally speaking, there is a vast number of legal experts who specialize in international eCommerce. They can help with the actual legal drafting of the forms, the resources that users are going to sign off in the terms, the privacy policy, the terms of use, etc. This is because within privacy protection rules, such as the General Data Protection Rule (GDPR), very specific terminology exists for what the site is required to display and provide as a reference to the end user.

We definitely recommend that all sorts of communication around the legal requirements and terms are crystal clear for the users. It must be ensured that the end user has no question nor doubt about how things are supposed to work. There's a significantly continual push towards plain language and making sure that the descriptions of terms, the privacy policy, or any other legal jargon, they are all focused on clarification. The overall terms need to be very explicit and plainly stated, so that end users can realistically read and acknowledge the underlying terms as quickly as possible.

Incorporating Industry Best Practices

The Importance of Unique Legal Notices and Documents for your Website

It is paramount that all legal terms and texts in use are specific to your international eCommerce site. A lot of international or global eCommerce websites may be in the phase of testing and validating within a particular region. Therefore, they may not have a significant financial investment that they're planning -or are able- to make. As a result, they might simply find existing terms of use and privacy policies, which they just copy, make a few edits to, and actually use on their site. Unfortunately, this may not be the best solution as it can lead to the wrong ending place. It's not necessarily the end of the world to review some of the competitors by looking at their terms of use and privacy policies. But this practice should only aim to inform and help provide some context for your business, not become the basis of your particular legal documents.

Bottom line is that we recommend working with a legal counsel if you want to provide the optimal and generally recommended set of legal documents on your website. A legal counsel can accurately provide quality feedback for that particular country or region that you plan on deploying your international eCommerce. The good news is that there may be a lot of similarities between locations and you very well could take advantage of those overlapping requirements. But always keep in mind that one or two little nuances could make a huge difference among locations or jurisdictions. Apart from penalties, not being clear towards end users and not meeting their expectations of clarity is quite hurtful for your credibility in the end of the day.

The last piece is remembering that during this process, the actual language used in the texts needs to be interpretable by a user in a particular locale. So, if the translation isn’t accurate, then the poor text rendition could create problems. You will most likely want to have translations on your site, so ensure that each resulting text is intelligible for users in their native language. It would be beneficial to have the translations reviewed for correctness and comprehensibility before actually publishing them. In the end, there's a lot that goes into the legal documents on a website and a legal counsel is the most appropriate professional to guide you through the procedure. We are certainly available to help you get started with this legal process, evaluate the steps involved and provide support or recommendations for your international eCommerce application.

How can Clarity Help

Clarity International eCommerce Experts

You're welcome to reach out to our experts at Clarity for a friendly and complimentary review with our knowledgeable team members. Feel free to browse the list below and click on any other related articles about international eCommerce that may be of interest to your business. If you have any questions about global eCommerce and legal forms in general that we haven’t provided the answer below, then don’t hesitate to ask one of our experts or send in a request and we'll be happy to elaborate. We may also post additional details on our site to cover your specific inquiry on international eCommerce.

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