Internet law in the United States is generally governed by the same laws that regulate other commercial activities. Applicable regulations can be obtained from the UCC, or Uniform Commercial Code, which can be found at www.sba.gov.
What areas does Internet law concern itself with? Regulations exist for managing data and financial disclosures, intellectual property protection, online privacy and Internet advertising and commerce.
In addition to the UCC, Internet businesses must abide by Federal Trade Commission (FTC) mandates. The FTC is an independent body of the US government that works to promote consumer protection and prevent harmful anticompetitive business practices.
The principal Internet business practices governed by the FTC include: online marketing regulations, false advertising and issues related to consumer privacy rights. But the main thing to remember about the FTC is their focus on “unfair” and “deceptive” marketing practices. According to Section 5 of the FTC Act, a “deceptive” practice is an action that has the potential of misleading consumers and affecting the decisions or behaviors of the consumers. The same Section of the FTC Act defines ‘unfairness’ as a practice or act that results in substantial, unmitigated injury.
Deceptive or unfair acts include, but are not limited to, the following:
1. False testimony: The FTC has strict rules about fake online testimonials. If you’re an affiliate marketer who uses them, make sure you have the proper FTC disclosure statement.
2. False demonstration: If your website uses a product demonstration video, but fails to show the same product in normal use, and people discover that the product doesn’t work the way it does in your video, the FTC will get on your case.
3. Promises and refunds: If you make promises on your website, keep them. If you don’t, you’ll be considered an offender according to the FTC.
4. False outcome: If an online business claims their products or services will result in specific outcomes, which are unrealistic, the FTC will investigate.
If you’re starting an Internet business or struggling with online legal matters, consider visiting an experienced Internet marketing lawyer. The legal issues related to Internet are extremely broad, so it’s important to find a lawyer that eats, sleeps and breathes Internet law.