Consumer Protections and eCommerce


Your business is only as good as its reputation. If you offer good products at fair prices,always tell your customers the truth and stand behind everything you sell, you’ll develop a loyal cadre of customers. While you might be inclined to behave this way simply because you know it’s the right thing to do, these ideals are also among the key tenets of consumer protection and eCommerce.

As an example, when it comes to pricing and returns, if you claim a price is reduced, the law requires you to be able to present proof the product was previously offered at a higher price. On the other hand, while law doesn’t require refunds, offering them indicates confidence in your products and instills it in the minds of your customers. However, if you do choose to offer refunds, you are required to post your return policy so your customers know the exact circumstances under which they can send a product back to you. If you only offer exchanges and/or credit for value, you must disclose this information as well.

Consumer Protections and eCommerce

Warranties fall into two categories; expressed and implied. An express warranty is a spoken or written pledge to either fix or replace a product if it does not function properly. By the way, any claims you make in an ad or in any literature accompanying a product can also be construed to be a warranty. Implied warranties rely upon common sense for their validity. If you sell a pair of scissors, the implication is they will cut and a guarantee they will do so is implied.

The responsibility to support a warranty generally falls upon the manufacturer. However, if you as the seller can be shown to have been implicit in the consumer’s decision to purchase a specific product, you can also be held responsible for warranty claims.In most cases, you’ll simply take the item back, refund your customer’s money and the manufacturer will reimburse you. However, these matters can sometimes become contentious, so it’s always a good idea to post your policies in writing where your customers can easily see them.

By and large, these are among the most common situations around which issues tend to arise. When you’re considering how to create an ecommerce website, make consumer protections a key aspect of your business philosophy. This helps ensure your customers are happy, and can serve to keep you out of litigation.

Another important consumer protection consideration is advertising. To stay on the right side of the Federal Trade Commissionin this area, you must be certain all of your ads promise exactly what they will deliver. If a product is only good for certain situations, be specific about what it can be expected to accomplish when you advertise it. If you’re selling dishwashing soap that isn’t good for laundry, your ads must reflect this.

Any images in your advertisements should be of exactly what you’re offering and, tempting though it may be, disparaging your competitors is strictly off-limits. If you have a limited supply of something, you have to say so.You must also willingly hand over without charge anything you advertise as “free.”

If you’re selling very expensive items and offering financing, your ads must disclose all qualifying details. These include the amount of the required down payment, all terms governing repayment, the interest rate and any other information the consumer needs to make an informed decision before purchasing.

Keep in mind, when it comes to consumer protections and ecommerce, if a customer decides to sue you and wins, in addition to earning the cost of the product, they can also get punitive damages, which can be quite substantial.

The takeaway? When you say you’re going to do something, make darn sure you do it so everybody goes home happy.

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