Guide to Laws for E-Commerce Businesses in the U.S.

This is part of our Guide to Laws for Business Owners.

Also see more generally our Guide to Laws for Retail.

Do I need to charge my customers any sales tax for their purchases?

Many states now require online retailers to charge sales tax for all locations where the goods are shipped.1South Dakota v Wayfair However, these new requirements generally only apply to businesses that do a large amount of business. For example, if you have an e-commerce site based in New York, and you sell at least $500,000 worth of stuff to customers in California, you would have to collect and remit sales tax for California.2AB 147 (2019)

The previous rule was that you only needed to charge sales tax for purchases that are shipped to a state where you have any sort of “physical presence” such as a retail store, warehouse, office, or where the owners reside.3Quill CorpvNorth Dakota, 504 U.S. 298 (1992)

Are there any rules on when I need to send out a product?

If you sell products on the internet, you must ship the goods within the time frame you state (or within no more than 30 days), otherwise the customer has the right to cancel the purchase.4Federal Trade Commission rule found at Code of Federal Regulations, Title 16, Part 435

Am I required to have a Terms of Service and Privacy Policy?

Yes. See our Guide to Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Can I prevent customers from writing negative reviews about my business?

No. A business cannot prevent a consumer from sharing their “honest opinions” about the business’s products or services. But that does NOT mean a reviewer can post things that are harassing, abusive, or false or misleading. False or misleading reviews could rise to defamation, and you could sue the reviewer for this.

Further Resources

See our full Guide to Laws for Business Owners.

See our Guide to Laws about the Internet.

Photo credit: Photo by Igor Miske on Unsplash


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