The provision of services and the sale of goods via the Internet is now quite widespread, but still the largest percentage of people decide to purchase goods, i.e. provide services through the traditional ways. However, if your business is conducted in such a way that through, for example, your website, you provide services or sell goods remotely, there are certain conditions that you must meet. Also, if you are planning to expand and organize your business in the above-mentioned way, below you will find all the important items that you need to implement so that your business is compliant with the law from the very beginning.
In addition to the fact that today e-commerce, that is, trade and the provision of services through the Internet, is increasingly expanding, the legislative framework regulates the obligations of service providers, and the rights and obligations of consumers. The regulatory framework in this area consists of several regulations that prescribe the obligations and conditions under which it is possible to provide services and sell goods via the Internet.
Introduction to E-commerce and Its Significance in Modern Business
E-commerce can be viewed from two aspects. The broader aspect of e-commerce would include the definition of e-commerce as a certain way of doing business, maintaining business relationships and conducting business through electronic systems, such as the Internet. On the other hand, e-commerce is a business concept that includes buying and selling, and providing services via the Internet. Certainly, it is undeniable that e-commerce as a concept is constantly developing and has an increasing influence on the way many businesses operate. This concept is becoming more and more popular, and its main feature is saving time and easy connection and easier provision of services to a larger number of users, i.e. consumers. In this sense, the regulatory framework also imposes certain obligations on service providers, so that their operations are transparent, legal and harmonized with domestic legislation. In the continuation of the text, which is a short guide through the world of e-commerce from the aspect of business compliance, familiarize yourself with the obligations in this area as well as the possible consequences due to the violation of the relevant obligations. Also, familiarize yourself with the rights you have in case you appear in the role of a consumer.
What is certain is that, by achieving business compliance and operating legally, your business gains the trust of many consumers, which is crucial both for the development and survival of the business.
What are all your responsibilities in the case of an e-commerce business?
First of all, it is important to keep in mind all the ways in which electronic commerce can be carried out. Namely, electronic commerce can be performed as:
- Online store, i.e. sale of goods or services through an online store;
- E- commerce platform, i.e. sale of goods or services via an electronic platform that connects merchants and consumers;
- ” dropshipping “, i.e. the sale of goods via an electronic store or via an electronic platform, whereby the goods are delivered to the consumer directly from the manufacturer or wholesaler.
Therefore, if you sell certain goods in any of the above ways, consider whether you are doing it in accordance with the regulations. First of all, you need to have general business conditions published on your website, which will predict and regulate all important aspects of your business. Bearing in mind that you conduct e-commerce, there is certain information that you must publish, that is, make available to your customers, that is, consumers.
First of all, it is necessary to highlight the business name, address of the seat and registration number of your company, that is, your business. You can see in our article about how to choose the appropriate form of business and what you need to know about the establishment of business entities .
Furthermore, you are obliged to highlight the sales price directly next to the display or description of the goods in a clear, unmistakable, easily visible and legible manner. As for the currency in which you must indicate the price, it must be in dinars. However, if you carry out electronic commerce that, in addition to consumers located in the territory of the Republic of Serbia, is also aimed at consumers abroad, then you can display the price in a foreign currency in a way that gives the consumer the opportunity to choose the currency in which the sales price will be displayed. In this case, you are obliged to ensure that the price is first displayed in dinars to the consumer who accesses the e-commerce from the Republic of Serbia. If, on the other hand, the e-commerce you perform is aimed only at consumers from abroad, so not at consumers from Serbia, then you can only state the price in foreign currency.
In case you want to implement a certain sales incentive, i.e. to offer goods under more favorable conditions compared to your regular offer, it is very important to do it in accordance with the applicable regulations. Among other things, it should be borne in mind that if you want to grant a discount for goods whose value has been reduced, either because the same has passed the deadline or has some damage, you must clearly emphasize this so that the consumer is aware of the real reason for granting the discount.
If you want to organize the sale of goods with a reduced price, you can do it in several ways:
- Through the sale;
- Through seasonal discount; or
- Through promotional sales.
In the case of selling goods or services at a reduced price, you are obliged to publish both the reduced price and the previous price. Also, in order to apply any of the mentioned methods of sale with a reduced price, you should keep in mind that for each of them there are certain conditions when they can be applied. For example, if you want to organize the sale of goods at a reduced price as part of a seasonal discount, the law even prescribes the period in which you can do it, as well as that the seasonal discount can last up to 60 days.
Also, if you want to reward your most loyal customers or consumers in a certain way, it is regulated how you can sell goods or services within special loyalty programs. Thus, you can grant loyalty cards to your most loyal customers or consumers, but with a precise and clear definition of the conditions under which customers or consumers are rewarded. In addition, the specified conditions must be published so that the consumer becomes familiar with them in an undoubted and easy way.
Be careful when using words like “free of charge” as there are clearly defined conditions when you can use it when providing a specific sales incentive.
In addition to all of the above, there are certain conditions under which sales incentives are advertised. It is not a rare case that merchants apply misleading business practices, especially when it comes to advertising sales incentives, as a result of which the market inspector can impose numerous measures, including a temporary ban on trading. Also, a fine of up to 2,000,000.00 dinars for a legal entity is prescribed for non-compliance with certain obligations.
Consumer protection and transparency
Domestic legislation regulates the issue of consumer protection in a very detailed manner, even in the case of concluding a contract at a distance, i.e. purchasing via the Internet. Consequently, it is the trader’s obligation to inform the consumer of certain important data before concluding the distance contract. As e-commerce is a specific way of doing business, i.e. selling goods/services, consumers also have certain rights.
Namely, as due to the purchase of goods through e-commerce, the buyer or consumer did not have the opportunity to see and inspect the goods before purchase, but only after they were delivered, the law provides that the consumer has the right to withdraw from the contract within 14 days ( from the day he received the goods) and without giving reasons. So, even if the goods you delivered are of appropriate quality, there is certainly a possibility for the consumer to withdraw from the contract he concluded with you and return the goods to you. You are obliged to clearly inform the consumer about the said right, and to send him a contract withdrawal form together with the goods or to publish it on your website, along with the general terms and conditions of business.
Also, you need to inform the consumer in advance whether he will bear the delivery costs, which is certainly a rule, but the above should be emphasized. It is your obligation to return the funds to the consumer’s account without delay, including the costs of delivery of the goods that the consumer had, and all within 14 days from the day you received the withdrawal form from the consumer . Refunds are made using the same means of payment that the consumer used. However, there is a possibility that the refund can be made through other means of payment, but only if the consumer agrees.
If you find that the goods returned to you by the consumer have a reduced value, the consumer will be responsible only if the reduction is the result of inadequate handling of the goods. However, although the law allows the consumer to withdraw from the contract without giving any reasons, there are certain situations when this is not possible. For example, in the case of delivery of goods that are manufactured according to the specific requirements of the consumer or that are clearly personalized, the consumer does not have the right to withdraw from the contract.
As the rights and obligations of consumers and merchants in the case of buying or selling goods via the Internet are regulated in detail by law, it is necessary to include and state all important information in your terms of business with which you will provide consumers with the necessary information in a clear, transparent and unambiguous manner.
Compliance with privacy and personal data protection rules
In this sense, it is important to look at all aspects of your business and which personal data of customers or consumers you process and for what purposes. Considering that, in the case of selling goods, you will deliver them to the customer’s address, and that if you have the option of paying directly through the website, you will be processing a lot of personal data, it is very important that such processing is legal. In addition, it is necessary to specify the purpose for which personal data is processed, and to minimize the amount of personal data that is necessary for the performance of your obligations, i.e. customer rights.
Then, it is important to specify the way in which personal data is collected – whether it is during the registration of the users or customers themselves on the website or when exercising the rights of customers or consumers in case of withdrawal from the contract, in which case it is necessary to refund the paid funds to the customer’s account (if the customer previously paid from his account). Also, it should be kept in mind that processing of personal data also occurs when your employees contact customers or consumers in order to answer certain inquiries regarding goods, delivery and the like.
Given that the area of personal data protection is also very complex, especially in the case of e-commerce, where a larger number of personal data is processed than in the case of traditional ways of purchasing goods or providing services. We wrote more about the trend of digitization and personal data protection in this text .
In the end, it is important to keep in mind that business harmonization in the case of e-commerce is not only necessary in light of legal obligations, but also contributes significantly to the development of your business. Most consumers place their trust in businesses that are fully compliant with the law rather than businesses that are not transparent in their operations. If you need professional legal assistance in order to regulate all the obligations you have regarding doing business through the Internet, our team of lawyers is at your disposal.
This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you need additional information regarding the topic in question, please feel free to contact us by email at email@example.com or by phone at +381677049551.