21 August 2023

Legal Rules for Webshops: Everything You Need in Understandable Language

Setting up a webshop offers many opportunities, but it requires more than just attractive products and a user-friendly website. Before you get started, you need to consider the rules and regulations applicable to online sales. These rules are intended to promote transparency and protect consumers.

Key legal webshop rules 

From selling on platforms like Bol.com and Amazon to creating a unique online identity and establishing a webshop, below we cover the key legal rules of a webshop.

1. Establishment and General Webshop Rules 

When starting a webshop, there are essential steps to follow. Choose a suitable domain name, protect customer data, and clearly state your business information, including address and contact details. Ensure transparency about the applicable terms and conditions for purchases and transactions to avoid potential legal issues. Moreover, both Bol.com and Amazon have their own requirements that sellers must adhere to, concerning prices, product descriptions, customer service, and returns. For a smooth start, it's crucial to thoroughly review these terms and ensure compliance before you start selling.

2. Legal Requirements for Webshops and Sales Terms 

When selling products or services, clarity about the sales terms is of great importance. This includes prices, payment methods, delivery times, and shipping costs. Make sure customers have easy access to and understanding of this information before making a purchase. Clear mention of shipping costs and delivery times is crucial for managing customer expectations and building trust. Avoid surprises with additional costs during checkout. Displaying clear prices, including any additional costs such as shipping and taxes, is mandatory. Provide customers with comprehensive details about payment, delivery times, and the ordering process. It's essential to make a legally binding offer upon purchase, and this must be clearly communicated. Setting up a webshop begins with meeting essential legal requirements, such as clearly stating business information, drafting terms and conditions, and ensuring customer data security.

3. VAT and Taxes 

Online sales come with tax obligations. It's important to understand which VAT rules apply to your types of products and the rates that apply. This can vary depending on the location of both you and your customers. Make sure you calculate and handle the correct taxes. VAT rules vary based on the location of both the webshop and the customer. Applying the correct VAT rates and accurately tracking collected taxes are essential. This also includes compliance with international tax regulations where applicable. VAT rules vary depending on the location of your webshop and that of your customers. It's important to apply the correct VAT rates based on these locations. Webshops must accurately track collected taxes and handle them correctly with the tax authorities.

4. Protection of Personal Data 

Protecting customer data is essential in e-commerce, especially under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the EU. You must create a clear privacy policy explaining the data collected, how it's used, and how customer privacy is ensured. Even on platforms like Bol.com, you need to be vigilant about data encryption and privacy rules. A careful privacy policy prevents legal issues and costs in the future.

For example, Bol.com contributes to this by encrypting the email addresses of customers with inquiries or orders. This way, you never have the email address and can't communicate with the customer outside Bol.com. Furthermore, this prevents recognizing returning visitors, two drawbacks that can impact the seller's revenue. With your own webshop, you can do this, but you still need to adhere to GDPR regulations. Be cautious when collecting data and adequately protect personal information. This can save you a lot of trouble and costs in the future.

5. Product Information and Authenticity 

When selling products online, providing accurate and authentic product information is crucial. Ensure your product descriptions and images are truthful to prevent account suspension and legal consequences. Be cautious about using others' EAN codes, and avoid listing or selling brands you haven't obtained legally. Brand protection is especially strict on Amazon, and infringement on copyright and trademark rights can incur high costs. Bol.com employs a notice-and-takedown procedure, but they sometimes respond slowly to trademark issues. It's wise to sell your own brand and avoid infringing on intellectual property. Check the platforms for specific rules and make it easy for yourself: sell your own brand and avoid others' trademark rights to prevent problems.

6. Customer Service and Returns 

A customer-friendly approach and legal compliance are central to customer service and return conditions. Responsiveness to customer inquiries and efficient return processes are important on platforms like Bol.com and Amazon. Professional and timely communication with customers, as well as following platform guidelines for returns, are crucial.

A clear and honest return policy, in line with consumer rights, is essential. Customers often have the right to return products within a certain period and get a refund. The policy should be clear and understandable, including exceptions and potential costs. This transparent policy is both customer-friendly and legally required. Inform customers about their right to return products within a certain period and get a refund. Clear communication about the return procedure, costs, and exceptions prevents confusion. Within the EU, provide a link to the Online Dispute Resolution platform to resolve disputes between you and your customers.

7. Shipping and Delivery 

The platforms Amazon and Bol.com have specific expectations regarding shipping and delivery. For example, meeting promised delivery times and processing orders correctly. Failing to meet these requirements can impact your seller's reputation and visibility on the platform. The costs and methods of shipping must be transparently displayed. Customers need to know applicable shipping costs before making a purchase. Additionally, estimated delivery times must be clearly communicated, and you should reasonably adhere to them.

8. Account and Payments 

Both Bol.com and Amazon have structured account and payment systems. Sellers must ensure their bank account and tax information is entered correctly to receive payments accurately. Also, any account issues need to be addressed promptly to prevent negative consequences.

For a webshop, you also have to deal with payouts from services like Stripe, PayPal, or Shopify, for example. It's important to be aware of your cash position and fulfill all your payment obligations before your next payout. Adequate cash flow is crucial for your business's existence. So, remain 'liquid' and reserve enough money for returns and bills to be paid.

9. New and Changing Webshop Rules Since 2023 

E-commerce regulations have changed significantly in recent years. Not only due to companies like Bol.com, where the quality of offered products has decreased, but also because the government aims to stimulate EU-produced products in the retail market. Therefore, import rules have become stricter, and costs from non-EU countries have significantly increased. Additionally, there have been four other changes you should be aware of:

  • Before/after prices: what has changed

An important aspect of the new rules concerns 'before/after prices.' These are prices with a discount mentioned, such as crossed-out prices or percentages. According to the new law, the discount must be calculated based on the lowest price calculated in the thirty days preceding the discount. This way, customers actually receive the promised discount.

  • Exceptions and new guidelines

There are some exceptions to these regulations, such as perishable products and short-term market introductions. Additionally, you need to ensure that your product reviews are honest and genuine. This helps consumers make informed decisions when making purchases.

  • The new webshop legislation and your obligations

In addition to the new rules for price indications, there are other important aspects to consider when running a webshop. These rules are in place to ensure customers can make fair and safe purchases.

  • Essential information on your webshop

One of the most important obligations is to provide essential information on your webshop. This information includes your business details, such as name, address, phone number, and Chamber of Commerce and VAT numbers. Customers should easily find this information.

Gain control of your webshop with e-pickr® 

Running a webshop comes with complex legal requirements and rules, crucial for success and trust. Fortunately, e-pickr® is ready to guide you with a platform that integrates data, education, and partnership. Understand and apply webshop rules correctly to prevent legal issues and gain customer trust. Keep an eye on legislation, seek legal advice, and build a webshop with e-pickr® that meets all requirements and excels in e-commerce.

Count on e-pickr®