E-commerce - a net gain?
An Informative guide on the vast area of E-commerce
E-commerce is the common term used to refer to any electronic commerce that is done over the internet. It is now one of the most important parts of the internet that is regulated. It covers all actions including website activity, emails and general internet use involved with buying, selling or advertising goods.
Businesses have caught on to the idea that advertising their business on the internet both locally and globally can attract vast numbers of business opportunities to them. E-commerce has enabled the buying and selling of almost any service over the internet. It does however provide problems regarding legislation. Cases that go between countries where e-commerce has led to trading between countries can cause difficult cases if disputes arise from the business. Aiming to effectively protect the contract and at the same time protecting consumer interests can be difficult. Common problems arise out of situations where money has been transferred but the good never arrives, or the good arrives damaged. Questions as to the process and who should be held liable between countries can be very troublesome. There are regulations in place to try an assist with making any e-commerce disputes between seller and buyer less difficult.
Regulations involved with e-commerce
There are various different pieces of legislation involved with e-commerce which regulate the use of the internet for any purposes involved with commercial services. I will go through each of the most important sections and detail what provisions and regulations they provide.
The e-commerce regulations: The Electronic Commerce Regulations 2002, were incorporated in to the UK law in an attempt to clarify the rules of business online throughout Europe in an attempt to boost consumer confidence when buying online. The e-commerce regulations stipulate that any business selling a product online is regulated by its own countries commercial laws. No matter what country you are dealing with, if a dispute arises, it has to be settled by the laws of the seller country. This is advantageous for the seller but can cause real problems for the individual buying the product. A participating nation can overrule the Country of Origin principle and use its own laws against a supplier in another Member State for the reasons of:
- Protection of consumers
- Public policy
- Protection of national health
- Public and national security
Distance selling regulations: The distance selling regulations are vitally important in e-commerce. The creation of e-commerce means that businesses from different countries are doing business with each other. These regulations ensure that certain provisions are met in their business transactions. The following is a list of details that must be provided to a potential buyer before the conclusion of a contract can follow:
- The supplier's identity, address and if the contract requires payment in advance
- A description of the goods and services
- Delivery costs if needed
- The right to cancel
- The price of the goods or services including taxes
- Arrangements for performance, delivery or payment
- The time period for when the offer remains valid
- The minimum duration of the contract if appropriate
- If substitute goods or services will be provided if those ordered by the customer become unavailable
- Notification that the supplier will meet the costs the consumer will spend returning any goods that they do not want
Businesses that are frequently involved in distance selling will usually send these details in an email to the customer following a placed order.
E-commerce business requirements.
The following are provisions that must be followed by any business which wishes to carry out any form of business over the internet. They are the basic e-commerce business requirements.
- The service provider name must be easily accessible on the website. If this is different from the trading name, then both must be put down and explained.
- The service provider’s address must be given.
- The service provider’s email address must be given.
- The prices on the site must be unambiguous and perfectly understandable. Tax and delivery costs must be shown whether they are inclusive.
- Membership details must be given if the business is part of a trade or professional association.
- The company’s registration number must be given
It is imperative within business law that these different regulations and provisions are in place to protect both the supplier and consumer of e-commerce. However, despite these provisions being in place there are still areas in which consumers are left out of pocket and with no goods to show for it. If a consumer feels that they should have been treated differently, or they feel that the service provided by the business online was not what they expected or they did not receive what they had ordered or believed to have ordered, then processes can be made to claim back any expenses. To do this, it would be advisable to use an e-commerce business solicitor, as there are many confusing areas and loop holes in which legal claims can be lost to. The more general advice I would give is to always be careful when carrying business out online, protect your personal details and money by only carrying out e-commerce with reputable businesses.