The internet has revolutionized the business world, expanding opportunities for companies in all industries to market goods and services around the world. If you are using the internet to market your business, it is likely you are reaching more consumers than you ever did before. T
That’s why you need to hire an internet lawyer.
Marketing online can open up vast possibilities, but it can also expose you to legal liability if you do not follow state and federal regulations.
Depending on what you are selling and how you are selling it, you may be vulnerable to government investigations, asset seizures or class action suits if you do not conduct your marketing properly. An internet lawyer can ensure that you are selling your products online in a legally compliant way.
Here are four reasons why you may need the guidance of a skilled internet lawyer.
The United States has a complex series of laws governing how different businesses are allowed to use and store the data of customers.
Depending on the nature of your business, you may need to understand both state and federal data security laws. The U.S has over 20 sector-specific national privacy laws, and each state has numerous laws on this topic as well. For example, California has more than 25 state privacy and data security laws.
Certain industries like financial services are especially highly regulated.
If you collect data from visitors to your website, you need to know the law as it pertains to your industry and your product. You will need to post legally mandated privacy policies and give your customers notice of your practices.
An internet lawyer will guide you in creating website content that complies with the laws relevant to your particular business.
If you conduct business with people living in the European Union, you will need to understand their strict laws governing data privacy. In Europe, a new law is soon going to go into effect called GDPR, which imposes strict penalties if you fail to comply.
If your business or product is featured on different websites around the world, you may be responsible for monitoring these sites to make sure they do what you need them to do in a legal way.
The government agency called the Federal Trade Commission is in charge of preventing unfair, deceptive and fraudulent business practices. It takes complaints from consumers and conducts investigations, suing companies and people that break the law. Its goal is to maintain a fair marketplace and educate consumers and businesses about their rights and responsibilities.
The FTC creates the rules governing internet business. It prohibits unfair or deceptive advertising in any medium.
While these laws may seem tough on businesses, they are there to protect companies as well as consumers. If one of your competitors is violating the law, it hurts your business in addition to your market.
An internet lawyer will review your website to make sure it tells the truth and does not mislead consumers. A claim can be misleading if relevant information is left out or if the claim implies something that’s not true.
You may also need to substantiate your claims, especially if your product concerns health, safety, or performance.
If your product is food or nutrition-based, you will also need to comply with the rules of another government agency: the Food & Drug Administration.
Immunity for Providers who Publish Information Provided by Others
Perhaps you run an Internet dating site. Or maybe you run a business like Craig’s List where others publish ads and sell services through your website.
If so, you need to be aware of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
This law, passed in 1996, provides immunity from liability for providers and users of an “interactive computer service” who publish information provided by others.
Before the law was passed, you might be found to be a publisher- and thus liable – if you deleted illegal advertising from your sites. Congress wanted to encourage sites to regulate offensive material so they expanded immunity under this act.
Now you can include blocking and parental filtering technology on your sites without losing the immunity allowed under this law.
This immunity has protected sites like AOL and Google from lawsuits against users of their sites who posted illegal or misleading information.
However, you need to contact an internet lawyer about the limits to this law. Congress specifically exempted federal criminal liability and intellectual property claims from immunity under Section 230.
If you fail to obey the laws governing the marketing of goods and services over the internet, you may be vulnerable to many harsh penalties.
The FTC has extraordinary powers to protect consumers from unfair business practices or deceptive advertising. If it has reason to believe you are in violation, it can shut down your business and seize your assets, including your databases, with little notice.
State attorneys general often institute lawsuits against companies which are suspected of breaking the laws dictating online marketing and commerce. They can impose penalties including exorbitant fines which can bankrupt a corporation.
Investigations by federal agencies can hurt a company’s reputation, even if the company succeeds in defending itself. You can lose customers during the time it takes to resolve the situation.
If you have sold your product to many consumers, you may also be exposed to a class action suit. These can cost companies small fortunes to defend or settle.
A skilled internet lawyer can help you develop a marketing plan and website content which will prevent these extreme situations. By working with a lawyer early in your business process, you can protect yourself from the dangers of failing to follow the law.
The cost of hiring a lawyer before you set up your online processes will outweigh the costs of defending an investigation or class action suit. It could make the difference between setting up a healthy, profitable business and losing your business completely.
If You Conduct Business Online, You Need an Internet Lawyer
If you market your goods or services online, you need to monitor the websites on which your products are listed and you need to make sure they are legally compliant. A good lawyer can advise how to make sure you are following the relevant rules of your industry, state and country.
For more information on how to effectively monitor your websites, contact us.