16 février 2011
Conforming with e-commerce law - An Interview with Matthias Dobbelaere from Mylex
Mylex is a niche law firm specializing in intellectual property and IT and computer law. What are the main services you offer to webshops?
Obviously general conditions, privacy policies and disclaimers take in the first place. Combined with the basic package, we offer a legal quality mark (MyLabel), which indicates that the webshop is legally in order. In addition, webshops often turn to us for the protection of their brand name or specific privacy questions.
As a webshop owner, you need to have a lot of knowledge, from online marketing to logistics and from payment to webshop software. Very few webshop owners however, have extensive knowledge about the legal aspects of online sales. What are the main legal issues that a webshop owner faces?
The online store at least needs to have customized terms and conditions. Copied conditions are often irrelevant to the particular shop. Above all, copying itself is also a violation of someone else's copyright. A privacy statement is also essential: the webshop asks a lot of consumer confidence, who has to give his identity (and often financial) data. Straight talk about data storage and processing often do wonders for sales. And of course the webshop needs to be in line with the new WMPC (Market Practices and Consumer Protection Act).
Say, a webshop in Flanders also sells products in the Netherlands or vice versa. Does this have an impact on the general conditions? Are these valid when selling across the border?
The general conditions will almost always stipulate to be valid in any legal system. Within the EU there are little problems, since the largest chunk of legislation is being decided upon on European level, rather than on an individual basis by Member States.
Outside the EU one may encounter problems with the validity and enforceability. In addition, one must always see to it that the basic requirements for general conditions are fulfilled: the informed consent. A link on every page, and an explicit authorization is therefore paramount, especially if it comes to consumers.
What is the most frequently asked question of webshop owners and other e-commerce companies who come to you for advice?
Concerns about general conditions, invoice terms and privacy issues are the principal issues. Often a recent collision with a client is the motivation to come to us, but it would be much better of course to have everything in the legal field in order preventative at the start of the webshops business. Sadly, but somewhat understandable, one is more concerned with the technical development, rather than the legal feasibility and security of a new webshop.
Besides your work at Mylex, you are also involved in the program FeWebPlus. This is a learning network that optimizes the management and technical skills of the web developer by sharing knowledge and experiences. Can you tell us more about this program and your role in it?
FeWebPlus 1 turned out to be a very interesting project for both participants and supervisors. There is a monthly session, and the groups are divided by number of employees or size. sessions are very broad: ranging from tips on networking to personal branding, general management and business models to a real Summer Event.
Mylex was a participant at last year's first version, and because of our good contacts with FeWeb and membership of the complaints commission we were happy to offer our assistance for this second version. It looks to become very promising this year.
In the end of March Mylex is also present on the E-shop Expo, to be specific on the FeWebplein. What are you going to present / why should visitors come by your stand?
We feel that many webshops only take action when problems arise, or when they are explicitly pointed out the many legal pitfalls that exist. Our participation will therefore focus primarily on sound advice about the various options to protect their trade and intellectual capital: from the starter (or base) AV package (terms and conditions, privacy statement, disclaimer and legal quality) to legally correct data processing, IT contracts, filing of the brand, et cetera.
The law and regulations are constantly changing. This means that you have to keep a close eye on the legal developments. What are the developments that webshop owners should take into account over the coming years?
E-commerce has experienced tremendous growth over recent years, both in Belgium and most of Europe. This also makes sense: online shopping is now well established, it's all a lot safer and prejudices are slowly but surely disappearing. Nevertheless, caution is advised. In 2010, we published a major investigation into identity theft in the IT sphere. The conclusion is that this is not too bad yet in Belgium, but in the United States and the United Kingdom "ID theft" is now competing for the elusive top three of the most common crimes. To say this is a huge threat to online trading is nothing more than a truism. Merchants would do well to make sure they have specific technical and legal measures in place to prevent or diminish the chance for identity theft and to avoid (expensive) liability combat.
What are your plans for next year?
(Smiles). This of course we can not tell completely. It can be said that we as a Belgian office focus mainly on the Benelux market and have a nice market share here. We have however since a few months been working out a strategy for the German, French and English (UK) market. Thus: plenty of nice perspectives!
More information at: www.ictrecht.be