How to start an online business: Legal requirement checklist

how to start an online business

Online shopping has surged with Australian ecommerce growth up 80% year on year since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic in March. Although e-commerce was popular before the pandemic hit, lockdowns and a reduced desire to go out has seen many Australians take their spending habits online. 

If you’re wondering how to start an online business, here are the legal requirements you should check off before launching. 

Intellectual property 

When setting up the website for an online business you need to register a domain name. This name should be recognisable by your customers and be connected to your business. 

In Australia, domain names are not purchased, but leased for a period of time before the name becomes publicly accessible again. This can be problematic if you don’t renew your domain name in time, or someone else purchases it once it’s expired. 

As a result, it’s wise to register a trademark for your business’s name, logo and any other assets. Registering a trademark means that if someone else registers a domain name that is substantially similar to your trademark, you can object to its use. 

Further, once you have your website up and running, your intellectual property assets will be publicly available. Displaying a copyright notice at the footer of your website will inform visitors that you take misuse of your content seriously.

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Your privacy obligations 

Whether you launched your website to sell products or to accept client enquiries, it’s likely that you’ll be collecting information about your customers. This can range from names, addresses, and phone numbers to payment information. 

Having a privacy policy on your website will inform customers how you handle their information, where it will be stored and what you intend to do with it. In many global jurisdictions (such as the EU), online businesses are legally required to have a privacy policy and can face heavy fines if they don’t. 

In Australia, only businesses with a turnover of more than $3 million per year are legally required to have a privacy policy. Despite this, many other commercial services such as Facebook and Google require businesses to have a privacy policy. 

In a time where online scams and data breaches are happening more frequently than ever before, customers now expect that businesses will take their privacy seriously. Ensuring privacy obligations are met is a critical part of how to start an online business.

Terms and conditions for users 

It’s important to tell visitors to your website what behaviour is and is not acceptable. This can include conduct such as online bullying and misusing content from your website. 

When your website is compromised in this way, you can take steps to ban these users from accessing your site. You should also inform customers of your terms relating to deliveries, returns and refunds. 

In most cases, businesses collate these on their website into a terms and conditions of use policy. Along with your privacy policy, your website will be covered when it comes to online information, selling products and conduct on your site.

Protection if your website becomes compromised

Having legal protection is important for online businesses as well, which is why it pays to have insurance which suits your online business. 

If you’ll be storing products in a warehouse, contents insurance will protect your business if they get damaged or stolen. When it comes to your website, cyber insurance will cover you for interruptions caused by a hack or data breach, any fines you incur and the costs of managing your business’s reputation. Having insurance for your online business will add an extra layer of security, in addition to having the key policies that protect your website.

NOW READ: Flexible working is here to stay: Here’s how to introduce a working from home policy to suit your business


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