The definition of an e-commerce is essentially the purchase, sale, or exchange of goods and services via the internet. Additionally, e-commerce includes transferring assets, business communications, and intra-company electronic communication including emails, faxes, conferencing mediums, images, or video over the internet or any other form of digital network. The trends of e-commerce in the United States are indicative of the scope that e-commerce plays in the world economy. For instance, the Federal Trade Commission released e-commerce statistics in 2007 stating that the United States estimated sales total from e-commerce was $136.4 billion. This e-commerce statistics also goes to show that these numbers increased 19% from the pervious year. The global nature of the internet creates a number of opportunities, as well as legal conflicts, that any company doing e-commerce must address with the help of an e-commerce lawyer. The global inclination towards e-commerce as a the primary or one of the vital means of doing business is highlighted in the skyrocketing numbers of foreigners attaining internet access, which as of 2008 included an estimated 158 different countries and over 1.5 billion internet users globally.
Once a website is opened to the public, it is essentially the virtual storefront of a company, except with the notable fact that this storefront now exists in all of the aforementioned 158 countries. The countries, not to mention any municipalities with the countries, all have unique laws regarding the commerce standards within their country. Typically, an e-commerce business must consult with a consummate e-commerce lawyer prior to launching any venture outside, or inside of the United States. For example, the vast majority of websites possess a stringently codified document known as the user agreement, which if worded to the letter of the law by an e-commerce lawyer, can mitigate a bulk of the legal liability an e-commerce entity will face from individual users and violations of their unique local laws. Additionally, if litigation or investigation does arise questioning the intended jurisdiction, or essentially a target market for an e-commerce site, owners will be held responsible for only those areas that they actively market towards. An e-commerce lawyer can counsel clients on simple measures, such as allowing contact forms to contain address space for Untied States postal codes, which could inevitably save an e-commerce entity an international, legal fiasco.
Additionally, laws within the United States itself govern the appropriate, ethical, and legal use of the internet to conduct commerce. An e-commerce lawyer is typically in excellent understanding of all the implications of numerous federal laws governing e-commerce including the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, Electronic in Global and National Commerce Act, Telecommunications Act of 1996, and numerous Federal Trade Commission regulations. Additionally, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Internal Revenue Service actively ensure all monetary transactions are within the letter of the law as well.
Traditionally, these aforementioned federal agencies combine to enforce and prevent a number of e-commerce related crimes and torts including:
- Money laundering
- Intellectual property theft
- Computer crimes
- Trademark and copyright violations
- Illicit marketing or advertising practices
- Taxation irregularities
Compliance with all these federal laws is complex enough for e-commerce businesses, but in addition, each local municipality and state contains their own commerce and communications laws that e-commerce companies must abide by as well. An e-commerce lawyer is well suited to help clients address these issues well before they become a problem. For any e-commerce enterprise to run smoothly, there must be some form of counsel present guiding clients in strategies to avoid investigation or citations for violating local, state, or federal commerce laws.
Do you need the comprehensive insight of an e-commerce lawyer? Get a free consultation with an e-commerce lawyer today to help your business operate within the letter of local, state, federal, and international law.