The second workshop was focused on the law and what legal rights and obligations you have as a web shop keeper. Naturally this workshop was focused on the Dutch law. This means that this summary will be cutting out some detailed information that is only important for Dutch residents. This information can be found on the website of the Belastingdienst and Kamer van Koophandel. The information that remains should be useful for European based web shop keepers.
Part 2 : All the legal stuff
This workshop was given by Monique Rhuggenaath, a former lawyer and current Etsy seller. She sells bags, purses and passport covers in her main shop BagsByTravelHer. In her second shop SilksByUmf she sells beautiful Indian silks. I’ve actually bought two of her passport covers, one for me and one for as a gift for my mom, and I have to say they are stunning! Most of all I was amazed by the great quality of the product. So please check her shops out! Monique also had a motto for her workshop:
“Start at the beginning!”
She ensured us that while we don’t have to take advantage of all the possibilities available to us; we do need to have at least thought about it. So start looking at what you want to achieve and sell. What legal steps do you need to consider for this endeavour?
- Look at what legal description applies to your shop. Is it a one-person-business? Are there other people or even employees involved? What implications does this have for taxes and registration? You should also investigate if the place you have your work space is even allowed to be used as such. If you rent a home you might not be allowed to make commercial products there.
- Do you want to register your brand name? Do you want to register a domain for your brand? Maybe you don’t want to make a website for your brand right now (outside of Etsy), but you might somewhere in the future and you might want the insurance that the domain name will be available. You could start looking at places where you could register and what prices they have.
- What insurances could be relevant for you and your shop? If your home is your workplace, your products may not be covered by the regular home insurance. Also you might want to consider a liability insurance to protect yourself from getting sued by a customer. This might be expensive or not relevant for you right now, but at least give it a thought.
- Check your local Chamber of Commerce at what they can offer you. Actually, the moment you open your web shop you’ve started a business. You might want to consider registering it. Registration comes with both upsides and downsides. Investigate if it’s beneficial for you. The downsides of course are the fees and guidelines and laws you need to follow. However, the upsides might include loads of interesting information for your shop, workshops, being recognised as an official store and legal support. Ask for a brochure or check out their website for more information. Also make sure when you’re registering that you don’t describe your endeavour too wide or too narrow. Both can have their own implications.
- Be mindful of the Tax Agency and find out what taxes you need to pay and what benefits or tax cuts you could gain. On this point you basically have to find all the information for yourself as what goes for one country might be completely different for another.
- There are other institutions that might help you or could demand money from you. Check your Chamber of Commerce for more information.
Contact with your customers
- In the Netherlands there are a few laws you should pay attention to with your web shop. There’s the “wet verkoop op afstand” which deals with the rights customers have as pertaining to returns. Your country might also have some regulations you should be aware of.
- On your website your identity should be clear. Your name, location and email address are the minimum of information that needs to be there. It should be clear to which individual the web shop is linked to.
- Make it clear if taxes are included in your prices, if there are additional costs (shipping and handling for example) and what the conditions are. As soon as a customer has bought your product (and paid for it) you are committed to a contract with this customer.
- Be absolutely clear in your description what the product is that you’re selling so the customer won’t be confronted with (unpleasant) surprises.
- Consider what liabilities your products might be subject to and inform your (potential) customers about them. Is there a chance that great bag you made might stain on white clothing? Be honest about it in your description. If you’re honest about it you have an insurance if a client comes back to complain about your product.
What did I learn from this? A lot to be honest! And there is still so much to learn. To start I’m going to order some brochures and some books about subject. I am going to get myself informed. And more importantly: I’m going to inform my customers. I also learned that in a conflict the laws of the country where the customer lives are the ones that are valid. So firstly it really pays off to be absolutely clear in your item descriptions and shop policies. Secondly you might want to consider offering more customer service than you would ever demand yourself. Gaining a satisfied customer can have a lot more implications than winning a dispute.