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
- Role of Expert Witnesses in Cryptocurrency LitigationWhen cryptocurrency is part of a claim either for illegal activity or to when the plaintiff needs compensation for online transactions, an expert is necessary to explain what this type of online currency is and how it affects the case. The role of this expert witness often has a greater impact in clearing confusion about what and how cryptocurrency is and works.
- Expert Witnesses Describe Negligence in Data Breach IncidentsData breaches occur with greater frequency when a hacker determined to expose the company leaks the information within the business to the public or on the internet. When these incidents occur, the company, clients and customers may all experience devastating consequences when their details are available to anyone.
- Stricter Bitcoin Tax Regulations PassedOnce Bitcoin funds are sold, the Internal Revenue Service expects to receive payment for these investments just as any other item sold through invested monies. As time progresses, these agencies of the government are becoming more aggressive in seeking the payment owed with those that reside or have primary residency in the United States.
- Launching an Online Retail Store: Do I Need a Business or Internet Lawyer?When launching any type of online business, there are numerous factors to consider that may involve taxation, payment choices and intellectual property rights such as trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets. Before finalizing everything, it is important to contact a lawyer to ensure everything is valid and legitimate.
- Does Using Bitcoins Increase Your Odds of Being Audited?With the Internal Revenue Service attempting to wage war on Bitcoin companies such as Coinbase, it is possible that these agencies of the government may attempt to use the client and customer base to audit and progress to criminal charges against some. While this is a possibility, it does not mean anyone with Bitcoin funds run the risk of an audit.
- Expanding into Global E-Commerce: Legal ConsiderationsThe rise of global e-commerce is changing the face of business around the world. The US share of that global e-commerce is steadily dropping, while China and the developing world are rapidly developing staggering market shares of retail and wholesale e-commerce. In 2016, the global retail e-commerce market was worth $1.86 trillion; the estimates are the value of global online commerce to rise to $4.48 trillion by 2021.
- Tips for Dealing with Digital AssetsDigital assets are still a relatively new item for many business owners and individuals with monetary and property assets. However, it is important to understand how these work, what to do with them and especially what is needed to protect the family in the event of the death of the owner of the assets so that they are able to retain them after he or she dies.
- Does Moderating Your Website Make You Liable for Copyright Infringement?Online platform providers are increasingly looking for ways to curate user generated content, both to promote good content and filter bad content. As a recent example, YouTube has taken steps to demonetize channels that may not align with the values of their advertisement buyers. Nearly everyone running an online platform is working on removing internet troll comments.
- A Ransomware Infection Risks Business HealthRansomware is a menacing cyber threat because it exposes a business to cyber extortion. A ransomware infection can harm a business by opening up its legal risks and shutting down its operations.
- How to Transfer Ownership in a Digital Business and Digital AssetsIn the electronic age, there are many businesses upgrading to the digital and buying and selling digital assets. However, there are not as many that know how to transfer the ownership of a company primarily running on online products and services.
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