Three Key Legal Issues Online Marketers Need to Know About

A business without marketing doesn’t do so well nowadays. Marketing is not only beneficial, but also needed in order for your business to succeed.

Marketing solidifies relationships with your clients, and also attracts new ones.

Your clients and customers should know that you care about them, their needs, wishes, but also about their data and privacy.

This is one of the three key legal issues that you have to address before plunging into the world of marketing. Other things you need to worry about are intellectual property issues and proper advertising.

1. Data Collection and Privacy

In order to send out your marketing emails, you need to obtain contact information from your customers and potential customers. This is self-explanatory.

The issue is much more complex than you would imagine, though, as you want to collect data on your customers in a manner that is legally compliant.

In order to do so, you must be familiar with the laws and regulations of data collection and privacy.

The vast majority of jurisdictions around the globe have adopted a privacy legislation that requires you to notify any individual you collect personal information from, and they have to be notified even if they already are a customer of yours.

For instance, the California Online Privacy Protection Acts will prompt you to disclose the following:

  • What kind of information you collect
  • How you will share that information
  • The process on how the customers can review/change the data you have about them
  • The effective date of your policy and description of all the changes you have done since then

If you will be catering to customers from the U.S., you will most definitely have customers from California as well, meaning you have to abide by the above requirements before being able to collect data on them and sell your services and products.

But how will you let your customers know that you will collect data on them and ensure that they are okay with it?

Well, this is why most websites today have privacy policies. When you set up a privacy policy on your website, you require that all your users and customers have to agree with it, thereby enabling you to collect information from them.

In order to be sure they do agree, it’s best to prompt them to click “I agree” to the Privacy Policy.

You can put the prompt onto a sign up to your newsletters or the purchasing process. Or you can let them know about the privacy policy during the process of registration. Here’s an example:

privacy policy register

Data Security and Cloud Storage

Once you’ve collected the data, you have to let your customers know their data is secure. This way, your customers will know they can trust you.

If you keep their data in a cloud storage, be sure to choose a reputable cloud storage provider, preferably from the same jurisdiction. Show your customers that you are serious about data security by informing them on the ways their data is secured.

eBay data security

To protect yourself from liability should a data breach happen, be sure to include a Limitations of Liability clause as well.

Limitations of Liability eBay

In short: Make sure your customers know that you will be collecting data from them. Prompt them to comply to your data collection policy, and once you collect the data, keep it safe on a reputable storage provider. Also, make sure to protect yourself from liability in case of data loss or a security breach.

2. Intellectual Property

Image courtesy of NY - http://nyphotographic.com/ hosted under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Image courtesy of NY, hosted under CC BY-SA 3.0.

As a marketer, you have to think about intellectual property as well.

This does not only include protecting your own intellectual property (which you should make a priority), but also the intellectual property of others. In other words, make sure to protect your services and products and have trademarks and copyright, but do not infringe the intellectual property of others.

Did You Know: The most common way many marketers infringe on intellectual property is by using images that are protected. In order to avoid this, use stock photos or free images.

Copyright the content of your website or blog, and have all your brands and logos protected with trademarks.

Your Terms of Service should have an intellectual property clause, where you will detail on how your trademarks and copyrights can or can’t be used and how you handle the copyrights and trademarks of other owners that appear on your website.

paypal IP

PayPal on Intelectual Property.

3. Advertising

newsletter

Online advertising is regulated by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). They also regulate privacy, anti-spam rules, and truth-in-advertising. The regulations you should follow are:

  • do not use any misleading marketing messages
  • do not use deceptive advertising
  • speak truthfully about the product and do not leave out relevant information about the product
  • abide by the advertising standards: you should compare products fairly and transparently

If your advertising is aimed towards children, make sure you comply with Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU) and their guidelines.

Anti-Spam Laws

spamCAN-SPAM is the main anti-spam law in the United Sates. The FTC enforces this law. According to CAN-SPAM, you have to abide by the following:

  • don’t use false/misleading header information
  • don’t use subject lines that are deceptive
  • any advertisement should be tagged as an ad
  • your recipients have to know your location
  • your recipients have to know how to opt out from future emails from you
  • be prompt about requested opt-outs
  • monitor the activities of third parties who are email marketing on your behalf

CAN-SPAM has a great compliance guide for business you should check out, and make sure to check FTC’s guidelines and checklist on how to make your business “consumer friendly” on an international commerce level.

Should you be contacted by the FTC or some other consumer protection body, make sure to be clear and prompt in your communication.

Don’t look at them as rivals; work together to find a solution as quickly as possible, which will help you avoid possible prosecution.

Conclusion

As a marketer, the key things you should remember to comply with the laws and regulations are:

  • get consent to send your marketing material
  • make sure your customers are aware that you collect their information, and make sure they sign up to your Privacy Policy when you obtain their information
  • protect your intellectual property and don’t infringe the intellectual property of others
  • be honest in your marketing campaign; your marketing messages should be truthful and no information about your products and services should be withheld
  • allow your customers to opt out of your mailing list if they wish to do so

By making sure you abide by these policies, you can be sure you won’t run into any problems.

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