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Eight legal issues to cover off when moving your business online

07 April 2020

#Corporate & Commercial Law, #Technology, Media & Telecommunications, #COVID-19

Eight legal issues to cover off when moving your business online

As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds and physical doors are closed, you might be wanting to take your business online, for example, to offer an e-commerce or food delivery service to your community of loyal customers. Here are some matters for you to tick off in the process:

  • structure: If your businesses is yet to be set up, or involves a new level of risk, consider what your exposure is and get advice on the structuring of your business for legal and taxation purposes. You don’t want to be running the site or app as an individual with an ABN and then be personally liable if something goes wrong, for example
  • website development: Be mindful of the contract you are signing with your chosen website or app developer. See our tips here for developing an app that will also be relevant when engaging a website developer
  • terms: User terms will form the agreement between your business and your customers. Well drafted user terms can protect your business and limit your risk. Although there are some legal restrictions on limiting liability, your terms can set the customer’s expectations and provide an explanation of how the service works. It’s important that user terms aren’t simply copied from another website, but instead tailored to your organisation and the products and services it intends to provide
  • privacy: Running a business online may involve the collection of extensive personal information from website users, customers, suppliers and others. Even if your organisation is not subject to privacy laws that apply to larger businesses, your customers will expect you to have procedures in place to protect their information. Your reputation is everything, and you do not want your customers to have anything but trust in how you will deal with their personal information
  • staff: Have you got the right contract for the job and know which awards you need to comply with? Are the people (e.g. delivery service providers) you engage independent contractors or employees, and what are your obligations under law? All these are important questions to have answered to avoid potential liability
  • intellectual property: Running a website or app will likely involve the creation or use of intellectual property, such as written or artistic works. Consider, and get advice if needed, on how to protect any intellectual property developed, so it is preserved for future. You will also need to ensure that your website is not using any photos or other content that is not properly licensed or owned by your business. This may involve properly licensing any third party intellectual property that is required, such as obtaining the right licences or assignments of intellectual property to you
  • advertising: Make sure your online advertising complies with all relevant laws, including those under the Australian Consumer Law and the advertising standards codes. You want to avoid making claims that give a potentially false impression regarding the product the customer will receive
  • liability and insurance: Consider the occupational health and safety obligations relevant to your business. What are the potential hazards and what licences do you require? Beyond the insurance you may have ordinarily, like public liability, professional indemnity and workers compensation insurance, you might also consider checking what coverage you have for cyber security incidents such as loss of data.

No matter which industry you’re in, each of these issues is important to consider before setting up your business online. With a bit of planning, you can make a smooth transition to operating in an online environment.

Authors: Emily Booth & Louise Almeida

Disclaimer
The information in this publication is of a general nature and is not intended to address the circumstances of any particular individual or entity. Although we endeavour to provide accurate and timely information, we do not guarantee that the information in this newsletter is accurate at the date it is received or that it will continue to be accurate in the future.

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