online trading

Small businesses, donations and working with charities.

In our experience, a lot of small business owners are very aware of social responsibilities and many have started businesses based upon a principle or an ethos.

It would seem that small businesses are the perfect target for a charity or ethical organisation that requires donations. It appears logical, that a principled small business owner would be very keen to have a transparent and open link with a charity, especially a charity that reflects their values and is compatible with their approach to business. As a small business making smaller more frequent donations works for us as opposed to large one off donations.

So with that in mind; here are two suggestions or challenges, that if overcome, would help us integrate a charity into my business.

The first issue is highlighting the destination of the donation and the positive impact it may have?
There is a certain cynicism with regards to how much of the donation goes to the cause itself, perhaps the charity can tackle that issue by providing a statement or a certificate with every donation, outlining where the money is going and what percentage will impact the grassroots, or make a difference?

The second issue is access to a branded dedicated link (continuously live) to make it easy for our clients and us to make a donation. For example, some of our services like ‘updating a contract’, may require minor tweaks and we may avoid charging our clients for the work, however attaching a value to the work is useful and may be an opportunity to integrate a charitable donation option into our service. Its means we complete minor work for a fixed value which results in a donation instead of a direct payment or not charging any fee.

The charities we’ve spoken with are not structured to provide a simple payment mechanism for us to use. You would think with all the technology out there that making a charitable donation that’s transparent, open and ethically acceptable would be a simple task.

Hope you find our thoughts on this subject of interest.

No Warranty No Clarity

This blog is part 2 of a series of 5 that is preoccupied with small business using contracts to avoid contractual disputes. Court is an expensive pursuit and building self-remedy or clauses into your contract, that are enforceable and offer solutions to problems that may arise is practically useful to small businesses. A considered contract can help you save money, time and effort.

Warranty in simple terms means performance. So outlining how the product or service will perform seems obvious but in many cases, the details provided are scant at best. In many cases, the contract generally fails to outline the key aspects of performance and in turn creates ambiguity. It’s this grey area that can lead to further issues, as during times of dispute, areas of uncertainty become points of discussion or argument.

This gets even more troublesome when there’s a returns policy or a maintenance/service agreement to support post installation or delivery. Stating what is covered by the contract with regards to the basic product’s functionality is one thing but when something breaks or fails to work, what then? Remember these products or service are manufactured and delivered by humans, so things happen, the important thing is outlining what happens next?

Going to the trouble of employing the right contract drafter to ask the right questions and create a contract that is designed to help both parties work together long-term, is worthwhile. Contracts are avoided by those who see no need for outlining the negatives…..but knowing what might happen in the event of….is arguably good customer service and is considerate to both you and your customers time and energy.

The next blog will focus on intellectual property…..

Ts and Cs can help protect against screen scraping

Ts and Cs can help protect against screen scraping

 

When you see the word screen scraping, you would imagine it to mean de-icing the car on a winter morning.  But actually, screen scraping is the process of automatically copying data from a website.

Screen scraping is a controversial topic – some call it theft whilst others call it gathering information. Essentially scrapers will target their competitor’s website, taking information from it that they can use to their advantage. Information such as bookmakers odds, currency exchange rates, online grocery shopping prices or retail sale prices are all known to be copied by scrapers, and the information is then used by competitors. Time-sensitive information is most likely to be scraped. Competitors use the data to beat prices and often draw customers away from their competitor.

With the rise in price comparison websites, there has been a rise in screen scraping. With prices changing constantly and businesses fighting to give their clients the best deal, scraping has become a real issue.

Whilst it is good to know what the competition is doing, scraping can be seen in a bad light. It is important to get a balance between letting your clients know your price and keeping it away from the competitor.

The internet is full of blogs that discuss whether scraping is ethical. Copying information from a website is a lot more complex than from a word document and there are now many computer programmes available. But is it right to scrape, and how can you protect your business from it?

If someone is scraping your website, they can slow your server and use a bigger allowance of bandwidth – meaning that your genuine visitors aren’t getting the best experience on your website. To combat this issue businesses may impellent new security measures, but this is costly and many businesses simply don’t have the money to do this. So essentially you are losing money from clients and security costs.

However a recent court case between Ryanair and PR Aviation has brought the issue of screen scraping to business owners attention, and action is being taken. The Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) preliminary ruled in January 2015 that websites can now use contractual restrictions to prohibit businesses scraping information from competitor’s websites.

Understandably when you are running a small business, you don’t have the funds to fight big battles, like Ryan Air and Ladbrokes do. But it is not just the big companies that have their websites scraped – small businesses do too. If you are in competition with another business who has the ability to screen scrape then it is most likely that they will do it to you too. Whilst it is not illegal, if a competitor holds information about your products and services then they can use it for their own gain – which could lead to you losing custom and money.

So what does all the mean for a small business? The CEJU ruling means that the business can have more control over who uses their products and services information.  The court ruled that website owners can prohibit screen scraping of their unprotected data via their terms and conditions.

Some of the information posted on your website may not be protected by intellectual property rights or the Database Directive – an official instruction that provides protection in relation to databases. The ruling means that if the information is not covered under this, then it can be covered by your terms and conditions.

Industry experts have stated that if a competitor was to scrape your website and it was in your terms and conditions that you limit/prohibit this activity, the ts and cs could offer protection and may strengthen a case of breach of contract. To do this it has been suggested that terms and conditions would have to be easily accessible.

Industry experts have recommended that businesses should consider amending their terms and conditions to include a screen scraping clause. It has also been suggested that should all businesses begin to protect themselves against screen scraping, it would help to discourage the activity.

Whilst having a set of terms and conditions that cover the issue of screen scraping might not stop the issue completely if you were forced to take legal action the contract would help you. With laws changing and new rulings being passed it is always important to stay up to date with the law. Adapting a set of terms and conditions to reflect new changes will help to sustain and grow your business.

 

 

 

 

Consumer Protection for Businesses

Starting your online business can be a daunting task, especially with a very long to-do list before you are actually up and running.

One of the things that can be easily forgotten about is having a solid set of terms and conditions drafted for your website or app. Neglecting this task, which many people deem dry or boring, can result in late or non-payments meaning that the business could be out of pocket.

Shockingly one in four websites is not offering their customer the correct options when trading online – ultimately breaking the law.

And now that the government is cracking down on businesses that don’t protect their consumers it is vital to ensure your livelihood is properly protected.

In 2012 Groupon found themselves in hot water with the Office of Fair Trading.

The OFT found that the online discount giant was guilty of ‘widespread’ breaches of consumer protection laws and was forced to change their ways or face court action.

New government research shows 87% of UK consumers feel knowledgeable when choosing and buying goods and services

And 70% of consumers said they know they have the right to return a product bought by phone, post or over the internet 4 days after it is delivered.

With consumers becoming savvier, the government reformed consumer laws and distance trading regulations in June 2014 to make them more accessible and easier to understand.

The Office of Fair Trading closed its doors in April 2014 and replaced by the Competition and Markets Authority, who closely monitor consumer law compliance.

And in order to strengthen these changes further the Consumer Rights Bill, which is currently working its way through Parliament, will outline the standards consumers can and can’t expect when they are purchasing online.

The Bill once passed will simplify enforcement powers and make it easier to prosecute rogue traders.

Consumers know their rights and by not acknowledging these, new businesses entering the online marketplace can also attract unwanted attention from Trading Standards.

They conduct random inspections of websites, carry out test purchases and cancel orders to test distance trading regulations.

If they find failures then they have the power to enforce financial penalties.

Trading Standards Scotland Chairman Colin Baxter has warned of the dangers new businesses face when entering the world of online business.

He said: “With the continuing expansion of e-commerce in the UK, new entrants are joining the market every day, many of them small micro-businesses with little experience of consumer law.

“We are concerned about the high levels of non-compliance. It’s a legal requirement to protect online buyers, to ensure fairness and a level playing field for reputable retailers, and to ensure the smooth working of the internet marketplace.”

It is the responsibility of the online business to ensure their website and online offering is reputable.  This includes being aware of the responsibilities as an online trader and ensuring the correct procedures are in place before trading online.

By not following the law and communicating the correct legal rights to online consumers, businesses are taking a huge risk.

A company that is serious about customer service and building a sustainable online business will take the right steps to ensure both themselves and their customers are protected”.

 

The UK economy benefits from those who can code…its the time of the techie.

The techie is playing a large part in the UK economic growth.  In the past engineering and electronics were the innovators and they helped grow both the UK and Global economy.  Now the Internet and technology sectors both in the UK and globally are set for huge growth, with more and more small businesses getting to market providing high-quality web-based solutions or online retail including Apps and software for both businesses and consumers.  An article from the Guardian reported on a Boston Consulting Group report stating figures that showed the internet economy in the UK accounting for 8.3% of GDP. The UK’s closest rivals are South Korea on 7.3% and China on 5.5%, followed by Japan and the US on 4.7% each.  By 2016, the internet economy is forecasted to grow to 12.4% in the UK, contributing some £225bn to the overall UK economy.

With regards online software itself, an article on Forbes.com from last year states some staggering statistics on projected global sales of online software, Software as a Service (SaaS) and cloud-based business application services will grow from $13.4 billion in 2011 to $32.2 billion in 2016, also an IDC report comments that enterprise cloud application revenues reached $22.9B in 2011 and is projected global sales to reach $67.3B by 2016.  IDC also predicts that by 2106, $1 of every $5 will be spent online is spent on cloud-based software and infrastructure.

According to the BBC website the “internet economy” was worth more than the healthcare, construction or education sectors.  The UK also carries out far more retail online than any other major economy.  Some 13.5% of all purchases were done over the internet in 2010, according to BCG, and this is projected to rise to 23% by 2016.

David Reilly, Director at Create Ts and Cs commented, “the techie is a huge focus for us.  Our aim is to communicate with future developers; assisting them to put in place a web-based or developer based contract so these important people in our economy are protected when trading. We want the buyers to have confidence and this will come from a sense of protection.  A solid sensible set of terms and conditions that adheres to the law and extends the buyer their rights is one way of increasing that confidence”.

He continues, “We are delivering numerous talks at the University of the West of Scotland, New Start Scotland and a variety of business and university events.  These future businesses require a practical approach to manage contractual risk, so they can contract with both consumers and businesses while adhering to the law and offering the correct protection/rights, (avoiding unfair terms) to both consumers and businesses”.

Evelyn Fitzpatrick a Teaching Fellow at the University of The West of Scotland commented “Create Ts and Cs, David Reilly, has given a number of talks on contractual terms and conditions to our UWS Creative Technology students. His talks have been interesting and very well received by students.  David manages to present what is a highly technical subject in a relaxed and engaging style.  He combines content demonstrating legal principles with examples from case studies based on his own experience to give students a real insight into the contemporary business world.”

With ICO and trading standards ever vigilant it’s important to protect your business by deploying the correct terms and conditions, offering consumers and business the correct legal rights when trading over the net.   Technologists tend to require a lot of contracts as they generally using freelancers and trade online, offering multiple services.  If techies take the time to deploy the right contracts, it builds the right rapport with the future client whether a consumer or a business and helps the net to expand while offering the correct rights to the purchaser.  The net, arguably will grow and mature (without further regulation) with the correct protection in mind for all concerned.

1 in 4 websites break the law.

16th Sept 2013

The BBC website reported that Trading Standards in Scotland (SCOTSS) states that one in four websites are not offering consumers the correct options when trading online, ultimately breaching their consumer rights.  Amongst these infringements include 43% of websites fail to inform consumers of their right to cancel and more than 50% of sites, fail to provide a full refund when required.

SCOTSS chairman Colin Baxter said: “We are concerned about the high levels of non-compliance. It’s a legal requirement to protect online buyers, to ensure fairness and a level playing field for reputable retailers, and to ensure the smooth working of the internet marketplace. “However, with the continuing expansion of e-commerce in the UK, new entrants are joining the market every day, many of them small micro-businesses with little experience of consumer law.”

So, businesses that enter the online marketplace with no knowledge of consumer rights, will only attract unwanted attention from institutions like the standards agency.  This could result in a fine for the online business and bad press for online retailing which is a key part of our economic recovery.

With the public more savvy about their rights as a consumer, it’s up to the online business to ensure their website and online offering is reputable.  This includes being aware of the responsibilities as an online trader and ensuring the correct procedures are in place before trading online.

David Reilly from Create Ts and Cs, director who draft and provide bespoke terms and conditions to online businesses commented “it’s a good idea to keep trading standards off your back; such organisations have the power to fine and tarnish the reputation of the business, leading to a loss of online sales.  It’s a risk for a business not to follow the law and not to communicate the correct legal rights to their online customers.   So why take that chance? A company that is serious about customer service and building a sustainable online business will take the right steps to ensure their customers are protected”.

Online inspection of Websites

SCOTSS will in the future conduct random online inspections of websites, this will include SCOTSS officers carrying out “test purchases” to check how a consumer would be treated when they purchase from the site.  This test will also include cancelling the service within the statutory seven-day period to test whether the website operators are following through on distancing trading obligations, as per the law.

There is a trust that exists between the general public and the online trading community, when an online purchase is made, online transactions lack the traditional personable retail face to face contact that can reassure a potential customer and establish the credibility of the company.  In the virtual world, all that’s visible is the website, social media communications and the correct terms and conditions outlining the customer’s rights meaning this formal communication is not only a legal requirement but demonstrates the correct customer service approach to protecting your potential customers.

Create Ts and Cs provide a bespoke set of Terms and Conditions for your business at a fixed price, this unique approach to individualising commercial Terms and Conditions allow Start up and SME sized businesses the opportunity to protect themselves, manage risk and guard against future unnecessary disputes at an affordable price. Download: terms & conditions | privacy policy