Regulation and red tape don't just apply to big corporates. If you're running a service business and trading online, don't assume you're not affected by legislation. You're less likely to be under the media spotlight if things go wrong, but failing to comply with laws could result in serious fines.There are of course different regulations in different countries. Online entrepreneurs trading in the European Union, for instance, tend to have to deal with more regulation than their North American counterparts. That said, it's only a question of degree – most countries regulate online businesses in the ways outlined below.
If you're selling any kind of advice over the internet, it's sensible (and in many countries, obligatory) to have some kind of professional liability or errors and omissions insurance. If you give advice which is shown to have somehow caused a damage to your client – such as them losing money or taking a bad decision – this kind of insurance proects you.
If you take payments for your services over the internet, you need to ensure that you are compliant with international Payment Card Industry (PCI) standards. Generally speaking, if you use any of the traditional online transfer payment methods, such as SWIFT, STRIPE or even PayPal, you'll likely be covered. Make sure you use an accredited service.
Most countries have multiple laws covering customer privacy. At a minimum, these require that:• You don't collect any more data than strictly necessary• You make clients aware when you collect data about them• You protect data in a secure, password-protected environmentWhat's more, as of May 2018, the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation will be coming into effect, which requires businesses to go even further when protecting customer information. If you offer services which mean you collect confidential information about your customers, you should prepare yourself for this law which has enormous fines attached for non-compliance.
Evidently, if you're offering medical advice over the internet, you should have a medical certificate. The same goes for other sectors such as engineering, law or accountancy.
Finally, many online service providers should have a lawyer look through their terms and conditions. When you're offering training, guidance or any kind of creative service, you should provide clients with terms and conditions.While words like 'regulation' and 'compliance' call to mind red tape and fines, in many businesses, you can keep yourself within the law by simply following basic steps. By covering yourself now, you'll be secure long term.