Do you love boutique products and want to be your own boss? Many Australian sole traders and small companies set up online shops. This brings niche products to market, including hand-made or imported goods. It also creates opportunity for self-employment and flexible work; opportunities favoured by many.
Founders bring a passion for their products and a commitment to great service. But are your legals covered? It is straightforward, but important, to have the right legal framework for your online shop. Lack of legal advice and documents means that you may inadvertently breach the law, including copyright law, the consumer law and the amended privacy laws. The risks include having to cease business, pay damages and pay fines.
What content can I use on my website?
You need to either own, or be licensed to use, content on your website. You own content that you create, including copy you write, photos you take, and blogs you write for your website.
If you use third party material, you need the right to use it. If content has been created for you, you should get an assignment in writing. Alternatively, you can license content, for example purchasing a license to use stock photos. If you use third party content without permission, you may be liable for breach of their copyright. Risks include being required to remove the content, pay a usage fee, and the time and costs of a legal dispute.
What legal documents does my online shop need?
The three key legal documents are:
How do I protect my website intellectual property?
How do I comply with Australian Consumer Law?
If you sell good to consumers you must comply with mandatory legal obligations. These include to sell goods of an acceptable quality, make sure that the goods are as described on your website, make sure the goods are fit for the purpose they are being sold for and to ensure that the goods are the same as any samples provided.
You need to handle customer complaints as required by the consumer guarantees in the Australian Consumer Law. Purchasers are entitled to a replacement or a refund for a major failure and for compensation for other reasonably foreseeable loss or damage. For a minor failure, purchasers are entitled to have the goods repaired or replaced.
You can chose to offer additional services and refunds if you want, for example a refund for change of mind. This is not required by the Australian Consumer Law.
To conclude, developing your boutique business baby is a labour of love. Addressing the legal side will protect your interests. This helps safeguard the time and money you have invested, and gives your business a strong foundation for growth.
Ursula Hogben is a lawyer and the co-founder of LegalVision, Australia’s online business legal services provider.
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