E-commerce can be a complicated interplay between a website and the users, especially from a legal perspective. In one high profile case, Melissa Earll, a hearing-impaired woman, sued eBay for not accommodating adequately for her disabilities, as outlined in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). She argued that when she applied to sell goods on eBay, the registration process required her to answer an automated phonecall that gave out the registration access code - which she could not hear.
In her claim, she also argued that eBay operated as a storefront, and thus should be required to have accommodations for deaf customers, in accordance with the ADA. Representatives from eBay counter that their site is not a storefront, and thus ADA requirements do not apply. In a statement, eBay officials asserted that the internet is not a "place," but instead a "means of remote communication" - but this issue remains on shaky legal ground in a world where a huge majority of consumers buy online. The legal system continues to struggle with e-commerce, from taxation laws to seller agreements, and new legislation is constantly proposed to help address these issues.
Thirty years ago, e-commerce barely existed. Today, millions of businesses buy and sell products online. Businesses offering everything from wholesale clothing to auto parts find a way to sell products online. An e-commerce business faces different risks than a brick-and-mortar company and you need an insurance policy that’s designed to address those concerns.
For many small businesses, a standard business owner’s policy (BOP) will cover most risks. This policy combines property coverage with general liability. If someone slips and falls while shopping at a store, the liability portion will help pay for medical expenses. If a heavy wind storm breaks a few windows, the property damage will be covered by insurance. As an e-commerce business, you operate in a completely different realm, so while the standard BOP policy may cover a few risks, you need more comprehensive coverage.
An e-commerce business presents unique challenges that only e-commerce insurance can address. Two key areas that internet businesses should focus on include:
It's a good idea to speak to an independent agent about other forms of coverage which would be advantageous to your business:
Liability protection is always a must, but setting the right limits is the best way to get the most protection. A good place to start is analyzing your risk factors and business worth. If you’re a small business worth several million dollars, liability limits of $1 or 2 million may cover your needs. On the other hand, a large e-commerce business with multiple branches could need more protection.
One way to save money on your e-commerce insurance is by raising your deductibles. Examine how much of a loss you can afford to take out of pocket. Raising your deductible to even $10,000 could make a difference, but just make sure you can actually afford it.
If you're unsure about the liability risks your business faces, it's important to seek out professional help. An attorney can help you understand your legal responsibilities, patent law, and even the ADA and other items that you might be curious about from a protection standpoint. Of course, insurance agents are also familiar with liability and can help advise you when it comes to finding a policy that will cover your risks. Just be sure to find a reputable insurer who understands the business you run.