California Law Pressures All Website Owners

James Chiodo, Certified Information Privacy Professional CIPP/US

California has a law on the books that is giving website and blog owners pause for thought. California Business & Professions Code Section 17538 puts a number of regulations on companies (or individuals) selling products or services on the Internet. At first glance, it appears to apply to those websites and blogs that are California based.

What is making website owners concerned is this law may apply to anyone in any state who is selling to a buyer located in California.

Here is part of the law that could affect website owners in all states:

Section 17538(d) states that in any transaction involving a buyer located in California, a vendor, before accepting any payment, must disclose to the buyer in writing or by electronic communication (e.g. e-mail or on-screen notice): (1) the vendor’s return and refund policy; (2) the legal name of the vendor; and (3) the complete street address from which the vendor’s business is conducted.

Violation of this provision is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and/or a fine of up to $1000.

I think it is obvious to anyone who does business on the Internet how many websites and blogs have only a contact form to fill in for support or questions. And they provide little or none of the information required by California law.

It is not often that I agree with California Internet law. However, requiring websites and blogs to post their legal business name, address, refund and return policy and other important information when doing business with California consumers makes good sense.

Far too long, many website and blog owners have hidden behind a simple contact box or email address. And this includes some large companies. If you are serious about doing business on the Internet and run a legitimate business, there is no reason at all not to disclose all relevant contact information and policies about your business.

I never understood not having a phone number on your website. God forbid someone should want to call and do business with you.

There are exceptions, but I believe the business owner who does not provide enough contact information is trying to avoid contact with visitors and customers because what they are offering is of mediocre or poor quality, or worse, a scam.

BTW…. This law is no exception; California recently passed another law (A.B. 370) which affects online operators in all states whose website or blog interacts with anyone located in California.

Your privacy policy must have specific disclosures and not complying could cost you $2,500 per incident.

Here is the California Statute 17538(a)


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