Online Marketing Laws: What You Need To Know

Online Marketing Laws Introduction

More than ever, it is imperative that businesses tread the line between successful marketing campaigns and misuse of marketing techniques that may border or cross into illegality. The best defense is to establish standards of online marketing well within the realm of the law — and familiarization with current online marketing laws is the first step.

Online Marketing Laws: Terms of Use and Privacy Policy

If you don’t have them already, get yourself a privacy policy and terms of service contract for your website ASAP. More and more people are suing (and winning) for various Internet privacy issues.

The catch 22 is that when an entity collects data from consumers in the U.S., the standard is that the entity owns the data, or in more precise terms, “the right to store and utilize it.” Such a broad reaching generalization is the exact issue that got Google in legal trouble a while back. Despite the “green light” to enjoy the privilege of “data use and dissemination,” legal boundaries can be crossed — and the fuzzy realm of impropriety belies no protection if consumers choose to complain or sue.

To help ensure your business stays on the right side of online marketing laws, make sure you:

Have a Privacy Policy and Terms of Use contract on all your websites. Make the verbiage clear and ensure you adhere to your own stated regulations. Inclusions often overlooked include the use of cookies and data sharing that is “non-sales” or “sales” in nature. Provision of a link that leads to your Privacy Policy and Terms of Use which is clearly visible on your website is a wise choice as well.

– Opt to choose not to sell information. While the benefits of “information sharing” are tempting, selling information will often diminish consumer trust. Being able to state that you will never sell consumer information will put many of your users at ease. It’s also advisable to state that sensitive information will be stored under a non disclosure policy.

– If you work with other websites for your online marketing campaign, make sure to absolve yourself of fault with any issues related to your partners’ sites.

– Note that the web is worldwide. If you wish to obtain international consumers it is best to garner a safe harbor certification. Note that there are guidelines called Safe Harbor Principals that you will be bound to adhere to if want to market to EU clients. The EU has the Data Protection Directive, which your Terms of Use and Privacy Policy must comply with in order to garner Safe Harbor Certification.

Online Marketing Laws: Full Review and Affiliation Disclosure

If your online promotions will include consumer reviews or “mock reviews” in which the reviewer has been paid for their review content you must disclose that fact. As of 2009 the Federal Trade Commission revised its Guide concerning the use of Endorsements and Testimonials. Reviewing the guide is essential as it outlines the cases in which a businesses content may be deemed worthy of adverse legal action.

Not only are undisclosed paid testimonials and reviews frowned upon, including posts on review websites, undisclosed endorsements garnered by those in close relation to businesses are prohibited as well. Also, not telling users that you paid for a research study highlighted on your site, is also a big no-no.

Online Marketing Laws: CAN-SPAM — Controlling Online Marketing Laws:the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act

The Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act or the CAN-SPAM Act is the bible of commercial email etiquette. More than a mere set of “rules of thumb” these regulations must be strictly adhered to. The cost of CAN-SPAM violations can reach up to 16k per individual email violation. Therefore businesses need to ensure that each email sent on their companies behalf falls under submission to the regulations set in place.

– The “To”, From” and Subject lines in all emails must be clear and non-deceptive. Additionally the “Reply to” must be equally transparent.

– You must always provide a means of “opting out” of future communications. It is best to have a system in place that will remove consumers who opt out promptly.

– There must be a physical mailing address visible in the body of the email.

– Utilize a reliable ESP to prevent non-compliance issues.

Online Marketing Laws: Intellectual Property

Perhaps the most murky waters of online marketing fall under the umbrella of intellectual property. More than all other violations this one ensnares the most businesses. It is worth noting that even user generated violations of intellectual property can be viewed as violations. There are many arguments both plaintiffs and defendants can use in intellectual property lawsuits. Consultation with an attorney is advisable.

No doubt, while there are immense benefits to online marketing it pays to be diligent in avoiding unnecessary pitfalls. Making the most of your online marketing campaign can be done without detriment to your desired message. If you take the proper cautionary steps, your business can enjoy a lucrative online marketing campaign without worrying whether or not you’re on the right side of the law.

Note that the information within this article is just an informative guide. It is not an all-inclusive layout of all laws and responsible practices. For a complete understanding of the laws that may pertain to your specific online marketing campaign and advice on if your proposed approaches will be in compliance with the law always consult an attorney.

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