Top 10 Reasons to Contact an Attorney Before Launching Your E-Commerce Site
1. Ever-Changing Technology. There may be more than 10 reasons to contact an attorney before launching an e-commerce site! As technology changes, so does the law.
2. Employment. Have you considered how the e-commerce element of your business will affect your day-to-day employment relationships or your employee job descriptions? A lawyer can make sure you are not violating laws related to wages and hours, employee leave, independent contractors, occupational safety and health, and employment discrimination.
3. Privacy & Security. Are you doing enough to protect the privacy of your consumer and employee information, the confidentiality of your firm's sensitive data, and the security of your financial transactions? Have you informed your employees that their cyber-business communications are not private? Do your free speech and other constitutional rights protect what you say on your Web site?
4. Taxes. You may owe them. Notwithstanding a global movement to make the Internet a free trade zone, many places, including the District of Columbia, impose sales and/or use taxes on e-commerce businesses. Get a tax lawyer!
5. Money. What are you going to use for money? Do you accept credit cards? Debit cards? Cyber-cash? Will a third-party bill-paying service handle your digital money transactions? Your lawyer can help you to decide which medium of exchange is best for your company and help you to avoid violating banking laws.
6. Disclaimers. Every page of your Web site should contain disclaimers as to warranties, responsibility for errors, and information accuracy. Experts recommend that disclaimers also include prohibitions against copying and disseminating the content of your site.
7. Advertising. Every state and the federal government have consumer protection anti-fraud laws that are interpreted broadly to encompass Internet advertising. Misleading advertisements, even if made inadvertently, could get you in trouble.
8. Copyright. You may be infringing the copyright of another. For any content you upload to your site, your lawyer will ensure that either you own the copyright or you have obtained a license from the owner.
9. Trademarks & Tradenames. Your competitors may be using your firm's trademarks, tradenames, and servicemarks as keywords (or "metatags") to draw consumers to their e-commerce sites.
10. Antitrust. The same prohibitions against monopolies, price-fixing, and blocking competition apply to e-commerce as to conventional commerce. Even something as simple as setting a price for your product can implicate antitrust issues.