Before you spend hours picking your graphics and menu colours, you need to make sure your site is viable from a legal standpoint. Here’s a list of essential elements to prepare before you launch your website.
1. Choose (and reserve!) a domain name
You can use your company name, your own name or you can make something up. But whatever you choose, your domain name needs to be available. (P.s. your domain name will always end in .com, .fr, .net, .org, .net, .biz, .eu .paris, .ca, or this kind of thing) There are all kinds of websites where you can check to see if your domain name is up for grabs (Godaddy.com, instantdomainsearch.com/). Just type in the domain name you want and see if it comes up. But remember, as they say, “First come, first served.” If the URL you had your heart set on is already taken, you have two options. You can contact the domain order and offer to repurchase their domain name. Or you can rack your brain to try and think of another one.
2. Register your site with the CNIL
If your website handles your customers’ personal information (email and mailing addresses, personal info, etc.), you need to make a declaration with the Commission Nationale de L’informatique et des Libertés [National Commission of Information Technology and Civil Liberties]. Be forewarned. Simply obtaining an Internet user’s email via a contact form legally requires you to make this declaration. Otherwise Bill 226-16 of the Criminal Code subjects you to five years in prison and a €300 000 fine.
3. Display all legal terms
Whether or not you are going into e-commerce or online sales, you will need to post certain terms on your site. These include “legal notices” which consist of your company name, legal status, business address, e-mail address, telephone number, registration number in company and sales directories, and intra-community VAT number. To view a more thorough version of this list, go to the website, service-public.fr.
4. Inform your website visitors of your General Sales Conditions (GSC)
Your General Sales Conditions (GSC) outline the specificities of your websites, address cases that might lead to a dispute and set the terms for package delivery and returns. They must therefore be accessible to all Internet users. If you are selling products online, they are obligatory and must contain:
- Required steps for contract signing
- The option for the Internet user to change any information they have provided
- Conditions of access for the contract (which you will need to keep)
- Business rules you are subject to
- The specified contract language
Given their importance and specific nature, we cannot give you much advice and would recommend that you seek out an expert when writing your General Sales Conditions.
The 2004 “Digital Economy Trust Act tightened applicable laws for online sales by establishing pre-contractual obligations. These include:
- The seller’s identity
- Product characteristics
- Price display obligations
- (Especially applicable taxes and delivery costs)
- Payment and delivery methods
- Right to Withdrawal
- The validity period of the offer and advertised price
5. Indicate the potential presence of “cookies” on your site.
A cookie has a maximum lifespan of 13 months. Beyond this deadline, it will no longer collect and store data on the Internet user who consented to the cookies and consent must be requested again.
Key Points to Remember:
- When you create a professional website, you need to respect certain formalities.
- E-commerce or online sales sites are subject to more binding obligations.
- These obligations include legal terms, declaring your site to the CNIL, General Service Conditions and the presence and consent to cookies.