What is E-Commerce Law?
Electronic commerce, commonly known as e-commerce or eCommerce, refers to the Internet based industry of buying and selling products or services via electronic means. E-Commerce uses a combination of Internet technology, mobile commerce, electronic funds transfers, escrowing services, electronic data interchange, supply chain management, inventory management systems, Internet marketing, data collection systems, and many other technologies and innovative business systems. Most, if not all, e-commerce transactions use the Internet for at least one point of the transaction.
While e-commerce can take on many forms, one of the most common practices related to electronic commerce is the practice of "e-tailing." Also known as "virtual storefronts," this is the practice of listing products for sale in a catalog format on a website. Some e-tail sites (perhaps most notably Amazon.com) take this a step further and aggregate numerous smaller stores into a unified system like a "virtual mall."
Other Forms of E-Commerce
Other examples of e-commerce include subscription sites, mobile application sales, electronic book purchases, online auctions, and the procurement of various services via the web.
For more information on e-commerce, please review the materials below. Additionally, should you require legal assistance, you can visit our Law Firms page for a list of attorneys in your area.
E-Commerce Law - US
- ABA - Electronic Commerce Law Subcommittee
The Subcommittee on Electronic Commerce develops and recommends efficient, flexible, and equitable policies, principles, and practices for business-to-business and business-to-consumer electronic commerce. This subcommittee is actively engaged in projects directly and through three working groups: the Consumer Protection Working Group, the Working Group on Transferability of Electronic Assets, and the Electronic Contracting Practices Working Group.
- Advertising and Marketing on the Internet: Rules of the Road
The Internet is connecting advertisers and marketers to customers from Boston to Bali with text, interactive graphics, video and audio. If you're thinking about advertising on the Internet, remember that many of the same rules that apply to other forms of advertising apply to electronic marketing. These rules and guidelines protect businesses and consumers - and help maintain the credibility of the Internet as an advertising medium. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has prepared this guide to give you an overview of some of the laws it enforces.
- Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA) - Domain Names
The Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA), 15 USC §1125(D) "was intended to prevent 'cybersquatting,' an expression that has come to mean the bad faith, abusive registration and use of the distinctive trademarks of others as Internet domain names, with the intent to profit from the goodwill associated with those trademarks."  The ACPA renders one liable to the owner of a trademark who, with "a bad faith intent to profit from that mark," "registers, traffics in or uses a domain name" that is either identical or confusingly similar to a "distinctive" mark or is identical, confusingly similar or dilutive of a "famous mark."
- Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA)
The primary goal of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) Rule is to give parents control over what information is collected from their children online and how such information may be used.
- DOJ - Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN)
On June 30, 2000 President Clinton signed the "Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act" (ESIGN) using his electronic signature ID, and thereby established the validity of electronic signatures for interstate and international commerce.
- E-Commerce - Definition
Electronic commerce, commonly known as e-commerce or eCommerce, or e-business consists of the buying and selling of products or services over electronic systems such as the Internet and other computer networks. The amount of trade conducted electronically has grown extraordinarily with widespread Internet usage. The use of commerce is conducted in this way, spurring and drawing on innovations in electronic funds transfer, supply chain management, Internet marketing, online transaction processing, electronic data interchange (EDI), inventory management systems, and automated data collection systems. Modern electronic commerce typically uses the World Wide Web at least at some point in the transaction's lifecycle, although it can encompass a wider range of technologies such as e-mail as well.
- Electronic Commerce - Legal Issues
The Electronic Commerce Working Group (ECWG) of the Department of Justice consists of lawyers from throughout the Department who are in regular contact to discuss legal issues related to electronic commerce. The ECWG provides a convenient vehicle for Justice Department attorneys to disseminate information quickly regarding electronic commerce developments.
- Email Marketers Must Honor "Unsubscribe" Claims''
Some marketers send email as a quick and cheap way to promote their goods and services. Be aware that the claims that you make in any advertisement for your products or services, including those sent by email, must be truthful. This means that you must honor any promises you make to remove consumers from email mailing lists. If your email solicitations claim that consumers can opt-out of receiving future messages by following your removal instructions, such as "click here to unsubscribe" or "reply for removal," then the removal options must function as you claim. That means any hyperlinks in the email message must be active and the unsubscribe process must work.
- Export.gov - E-Commerce Toolbox
The Internet’s global reach has made possible a cost-effective means for marketing products and services overseas. Companies that establish a corporate web site, which publicizes their products and services, provides an electronic mechanism for safe and secure electronic transactions, features order tracking, and lists products’ technical specifications can easily apply electronic commerce to international marketing.
- FTC - E-Commerce
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is the primary federal agency regulating e-commerce activities, including use of commercial e-mails, online advertising and consumer privacy. FTC's E-Commerce Guide provides an overview of e-commerce rules and regulations.
- FTC - Electronic Commerce. Selling Internationally: A Guide for Business
Consumers around the world are increasingly turning to their computers to buy a wide array of goods and services. And because the World Wide Web is, as its name implies, worldwide, businesses that sell online can potentially reach billions of customers in every country of the world. Even small "mom-&n-pop" companies with websites are attracting a client base never before possible. Many are discovering just how international the Internet really is, processing orders not only from the next town or state, but from the next continent, too.
- Online Business Law
Rules and regulations for conducting e-commerce apply mainly to online retailers and other business that perform consumer transactions by collecting customer data. However, even if you do not sell anything online, laws covering digital rights and online advertising may still apply to you.
- Selling on the Internet: Prompt Delivery Rules
The Internet is the fastest growing source of mail order sales. It's estimated that consumers spent $200 billion on Internet-based goods and services in 2008. The explosive growth in the goods and services sold online has in the past, taken many online sellers by surprise: demand has outpaced supply, depleting inventories and disappointing customers. The Federal Trade Commission is advising online merchants to review their obligations under the Mail or Telephone Order Merchandise Rule to better serve their customers.
Organizations Related to E-Commerce Law
- Better Business Bureau (BBB)
BBB’s mission is to be the leader in advancing marketplace trust. BBB accomplishes this mission by: * Creating a community of trustworthy businesses * Setting standards for marketplace trust * Encouraging and supporting best practices * Celebrating marketplace role models, and; * Denouncing substandard marketplace behavior.
- Global E-Commerce Council (GECC)
The Global E-Commerce Council (GECC) is a central platform for global coordination and networking in play when doing business in the New Online Economy. With expert task forces, online educational training, legal consulting services, and annual global summits, GECC offers an open forum to identify and develop e-commerce best practices and strategies on an international level. In this next generation of global online trade, legal issues are emerging as a specialized field in need of experts. Consequently, the Global E-Commerce Council represents a knowledge community of corporate and government specialists who are actively shaping the future of Internet and E-commerce laws and regulation, from both a regional and international perspective.
- Privacy Coalition
The Privacy Coalition is a nonpartisan coalition of consumer, civil liberties, educational, family, library, labor, and technology organizations that have agreed to the Privacy Pledge.
Publications Related to E-Commerce Law
- Consumer Privacy Guide Top Steps
Going online and taking advantage of what the Internet has to offer may require that you disclose personal information. Whether you're new to the Net, or consider yourself savvy in the ways of the Web, you may have concerns about how personal information is collected, what choices you have about how it is used and shared, and under what circumstances you can access it..
- E-Commerce Law Briefs
Hundreds of E-Commerce Law readers familiar with RSS ("Really Simple Syndication") and news aggregators receive regular updates with new content via our RSS feed.
- Step-by-Step Guide to Going Online
Use these steps as a guide to creating your website and marketing your company overseas using the internet and key service providers.
Articles on HG.org Related to Business and Industry Law
- The Importance of Writing Good Legal ContentWhat is Good Legal Content? Good Legal Content is content that serves two purposes, one it gains the attention of the reader, hopefully one who is a potential client. The content gives them enough information and intrigues them enough to make them want to contact your office for more information, or better yet a consultation.
- What is a Work for Hire Agreement?If you are commissioning someone to work on a project for you, are not a traditional employer, and yet want to retain all rights to the work created, it becomes important to understand "work for hire" agreements.
- Bipartisan Bill Looks to Crack Down on Rogue WebsitesA bipartisan group in the U.S. House of Representatives recently introduced legislation intended to combat the illegal distribution of counterfeit goods via rogue websites hosted overseas. The proposed bill greatly expands protections for intellectual property (IP) and, if passed, would bring sweeping changes to copyright law.
- Facebook Pictures and Privacy Concerns with Facial Recognition TechnologyFace Recognition Technology
- Did Lawsuit Get Filed in The Right Place?In the age of the internet, filing lawsuits has become more complicated. Consider the scenario where you order a product from a website and the company is from out of state or maybe you are working with an vendor or supplier that is located out of state. Some dispute arises and a lawsuit is imminent. Where should the lawsuit be filed?
- $1.5 Million For Texting? That is Awesome, DudeBetween email and texting and IM and social media messaging in its varied forms, the number of ways to communicate without ever actually speaking is astonishing. And it can lead to big problems when combined with continuing contract discussions. If your life is anything like mine, you were forced into text messaging kicking and screaming.
- User Agreements for your websiteDon't think you need contracts for your website? Think again! Consult a lawyer today that specializes in internet law.
- “I Never Signed Nuthin!” Five Tips For Small Biz Internet ContractsIf you’re a small business with an e-commerce website you’d be best served making sure your site does substantiate understanding of the transaction and it does confirm assent to the terms in what the courts have uniformly called a “fair and forthright” manner. Here are five tips to help you do just that.
- Internet Marketing Law - FTC and Advertising RulesMarketing and Advertising on the Internet is subject to the same laws as any other medium. Sometimes people do not follow those rules, and the FTC or State AG is involved.
- If My Only Contact with a State Is My website, Can I Be Sued There?A recent decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Penguin Group (USA) Inc. v. American Buddha may make it easier for New York plaintiffs asserting copyright infringement over the Internet to haul infringers into court in New York.
- All Business and Industry Law Articles
Articles written by attorneys and experts worldwide discussing legal aspects related to Business and Industry including: agency and distributorship, agency law, business and industry, business formation, business law, commercial law, contracts, corporate governance, corporate law, e-commerce, food and beverages law, franchising, industrial and manufacturing, joint ventures, legal economics, marketing law, mergers and acquisitions, offshore services, privatization law, retail, shareholders rights and utilities.