TMT ENSight | 25 April 2018

Websites and apps: compliance aspects to consider

by Wilmari Strachan
According to an article recently published by the World Economic Forum, mobile technology is one of the main tech superpowers that is changing our world. A mobile phone with basic internet service opens the door to various online transactions, including the sale of goods and even financial services. With competitors just a convenient click away, a business can hardly afford not to have an online presence in order to promote its brand, grow sales and reach customers in remote areas that were previously out of reach. 

In this digital era, a business’ online profile is consumers’ first introduction to the business and the services or products it offers. As such, a business’ online profile has become its business card. 

It is therefore essential that a business’ online profile, whether that be its website, app or social media platforms, displays a professional image, one that is not only easy and convenient to use, informative and safe, but is also legally compliant. 

There are very specific legal requirements for online e-commerce transactions, whether it is offering goods or services for sale, hire or exchange via a website, app or social media platform. In terms of South African law, businesses are required to display certain information on their e-commerce platform, including specific company information, contact information, certain sales or product information and terms and conditions, to mention a few. In addition, if operating in the electronic communications, health services or financial services industries, businesses also have to make sure that their digital platforms comply with industry specific regulations. 

It is important for a business to have proper terms and conditions on its website or app. The business’ terms and conditions should, among others, cover issues relating to data privacy and security, liability, acceptable use policy (especially if providing online services like online forums where users can submit comments or content), return and exchange policies and complaint handling processes. It is important to make sure that terms and conditions are displayed properly on the website or app and that users agree to be bound by the terms and conditions before a transaction is concluded, otherwise it will be difficult, if not impossible, to enforce it later. 

In terms of marketing, it is important to understand a business’ obligations and users' rights relating to advertising, the manner in which these are communicated with users and the use and processing of their personal information. Digital platforms collect information about consumers, and this information is invaluable to businesses in terms of effective targeted marketing and analysing product reach, sales and marketing efforts. However, a business may not be able to use any of this information if they do not have a proper privacy policy displayed on their digital platforms. 

It is also essential that an e-commerce business uses a payment platform that is secure and that complies with accepted technological standards, such as the Payment Card Industry's Data Security Standards. If not, the business will be liable for any damages suffered by a consumer if it did not use a secure payment platform. 

Many businesses conduct promotional competitions on their digital platforms. These are also regulated, and it is therefore important to ensure that all promotional competitions, whether on a website, app, Facebook, or other platform, comply with the relevant regulations.

Google amended its AdWords trade marks policy a while back, allowing the use of rivals' trade marks as keywords in AdWords campaigns. While this seems like a progressive manner for a business to direct traffic to its website, it must make sure that South African trade mark laws have been understood.

It is also important for companies to make sure that their manual published in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act, 2013 is posted on their website. 

With consumers having to sift through so many online scams and fake platforms, it is important to give them peace of mind – a compliant website is a safe website. 

For assistance or advice on platform compliance audits, terms and conditions and contracts for app and website development, please contact ENSafrica’s technology, media and telecommunications department


 

Wilmari Strachan

technology, media and telecommunications | director
wstrachan@ENSafrica.com
cell: +27 82 926 8751

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No information provided herein may in any way be construed as legal advice from ENSafrica and/or any of its personnel. Professional advice must be sought from ENSafrica before any action is taken based on the information provided herein, and consent must be obtained from ENSafrica before the information provided herein is reproduced in any way. ENSafrica disclaims any responsibility for positions taken without due consultation and/or information reproduced without due consent, and no person shall have any claim of any nature whatsoever arising out of, or in connection with, the information provided herein against ENSafrica and/or any of its personnel. Any values, such as currency (and their indicators), and/or dates provided herein are indicative and for information purposes only, and ENSafrica does not warrant the correctness, completeness or accuracy of the information provided herein in any way.

 

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