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E-commerce law:
Launching e-commerce internationally  

Agnes Hammerstrand från Delphi

Guest blog:

Agnes Hammarstrand
Partner and Attorney at Delphi
Telefon +45 730 83 50 70

Do's & don'ts when launching e-commerce internationally

The stories of how companies, who cross the borders with their e-commerce business, have hit legal minefields are many. They can be about everything from goods that get stuck in customs to actual legal disputes. We, as an e-commerce legal team, are often contacted by e-sellers who are about to launch internationally and who have heard stories about how for example e-sellers starting up in Germany are contacted by authorities, competitors or lawyers if the information on their webshop is inaccurate or inadequate.

Because the information on a webshop is easy to access, there is a great risk that outsiders may discover the webshop’s shortcomings. Therefore, to avoid problems related to internationalisation, a good first step is to carefully review the content of the webshop.

In this article, we will go through some common mistakes and what to consider from a legal perspective before launching an e-commerce business internationally.

Do's & Don'ts when launching e-commerce internationally

Common (and expensive) mistakes

There are many mistakes one can make when it comes to legal matters online. Actually, a common mistake is to ignore the law completely. This often results in an unprofessional webshop, as well as giving the impression that the business behind is not serious, and it may also invite the risk of fines, disputes and other sanctions. Thus, it often becomes a more expensive option in the long run.

On the other hand, another common mistake is to put too much money into the legal aspects – by contacting a lawyer for each country instead of employing a competent lawyer with an understanding of cross-border e-commerce, who has a holistic approach and a good overview. After all, many rules are identical or similar in the EU and the EEA, but if you do not ensure that everything is right before the site is translated, the mistakes are transferred into every translated version. This can be resource demanding to rectify.

The consequences of failure to comply with laws and regulations can be anything from mild dissatisfaction, badwill and reduced sales, to injunctions, often combined with high penalties or fines.

What to do to comply with the requirements

There are many legal requirements for a webshop. Most requirements relate to the information about the website. Before launching internationally, companies should do the following:

  • Ensure that you have the right trademark protection and domain name to launch internationally.
  • Ensure that your supplier contracts cover the international launch with increased volume as a result.
  • Make a legal review of the site and the order flow.
  • Review or develop new terms of purchase and other legal texts.
  • Check to ensure that GDPR is properly managed. Allow a review of your privacy policy and information about cookies and consent, the customer club, chat and/or portal.
  • When selling outside the EU, please consult someone who is knowledgeable about tax, VAT and customs legislation so you do not hit land mines and goods, for example, get stuck in customs.

Actually, e-sellers should take many of the above points into account when operating in their own home country. But it becomes even more important before launching internationally. Regardless, it is an important "check-point" to do it right before the international launch so that errors are not included in the translation, which is something we have seen before.

Rules in other countries- considerations

As we have mentioned above, the rules are to a large extent similar within the EU and the EEA (which includes Norway). However, some differences exist, e.g. how long consumers have the right to complain, and whether a company can send newsletters and other direct marketing without consent. The EU is trying to legislate around this to erase the last differences and has put forward proposals for legislative changes. Some new rules have already been hammered through.

If you commit to so-called "EU conditions, you likely follow most rules in the EU (and the EEA), but some discrepancies may exist. If you have limited finances but are still launching internationally, the most important thing is to review the site from an EU perspective. If you want to go a step further, and make sure you follow detailed rules country by country, you should go ahead, reconciling and adapting the EU conditions for each country. In order to not pay for more than the bare necessities, it should be coordinated through a law firm specialising in e-commerce. Otherwise, you risk creating texts unnecessarily, with the local lawyer/lawyers spending time on things that have already been done. In many countries hardly anything needs to be changed, so you don’t need to pay for the same things over and over again.

Outside the EU, it is a bit more cumbersome, as the rules can differ much more. However, many components are equal and if everything has been done right under EU rules, there is much to be gained, even outside the EU.

To keep an eye on: new e-commerce rules on the way

In the EU, there are constantly new rules for e-commerce. This is due to the EU's huge “Digital Single Market” project, which aims to create the same rules across the EU. Part of the project has been the launch of GDPR and now new rules are being negotiated, for example, for direct marketing, cookies and consumer rules.

This is the second article in a series on e-commerce law.

The first one was about new consumer rules in the context of the EU's 'Digital Single Market' - READ THE ARTICLE.

The third article was about about Geoblocking - READ THE ARTICLE

About Delphi

Delphi is a progressive law firm with expertise and deep business strategic understanding. By combining strong competencies and knowledge of business, we tailor our service, expertise and offerings to our customers' needs. Our customers are mainly located in Scandinavia, Europe and North America. We also cooperate with law firms around the world and often assist clients in international cases. We have a total of 195 employees, including more than 150 lawyers. Our offices are located in Stockholm, Gothenburg, Malmö, Linköping and Norrköping.


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