Unless you've had your head in the sand as a small business owner, you must understand the importance of an online presence. You may have had a bricks-and-mortar operation for generations and have been doing particularly well on the high street, but the retail trend is firmly digital, and you have to work out a way to convert your sales process into a virtual one. The good news is that website creation is quite simple and systemised these days, and it doesn't take very long to hook up a payment processor either. However, you do need to ensure that you are trading legally and that you can enforce any contracts that you may begin online.
Not the Wild West Any More
While it may have taken some governments a while to catch up, most jurisdictions have uniform legislation in place to protect online transactions. These are being developed quite quickly to take into account the meteoric growth of the Internet, and while they are put in place to protect customers, they also help to create a level playing field for retailers.
You may be familiar with the basics of contract law in your everyday environment and must make sure that your online transactions comply as well. You may never see the buyer at a remote computer, but you must nevertheless get their consent through a specific process before you gather their funds. This means that you have to make an offer to them, and they need to accept it before they give you the consideration in exchange for your goods or services. Furthermore, you must get them to confirm that they have the legal capacity to do business with you, or in other words are over the age of consent.
How to Get Consent
Typically, online retailers will ask the buyer to place a virtual 'tick' into a box that signifies they have read the terms and conditions contained within. Sometimes, you may make them scroll down by using their mouse so that you have a digital record that they have at least done this, and in law, this is an implied agreement.
What About Overseas?
Of course, the beauty of the Internet is that it is worldwide, and you may well enter into agreements with buyers in foreign countries. You will need to make sure that your business is still enforceable, however, and this can be a little difficult to understand when any international rules come into the picture. To be sure that you are in compliance as much as possible, it's a good idea to talk with a lawyer who works in commercial law first.