Back

Apply

3 Myths Uncovered About Social Media Legal Issues

There is something about social media that makes it look and feel not as real as traditional media. We say things we wouldn’t otherwise; we share information that has no backup. We befriend people we have never seen. And while these are not okay when it comes to your personal account (because digital bullying is a real problem), they are a complete “no-no” when it comes to business. Just because it’s digital it doesn't mean that the law doesn’t apply to it. The Australian Consumer Law, Spam Law and Australian Competition Law fully apply to your activity online. In addition, there are legislations that apply specifically to social media for businesses and they are regulated by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. We strongly recommend you to go through them in detail before starting your next social media account. For now, just get in the mood by reading through the 3 biggest myths that entrepreneurs believe in about social media: 1. I decide how, when and what You just can’t say whatever you want on social media. Making misleading comments or allowing them on your social media accounts can lead to a lot of lost business. Not only your reputation will suffer and you will lose your following but clients can file lawsuits against your company. The biggest myth small business owners believe about social media is that they are in control. Not at all. Social media platforms own your account and they have specific and detailed terms and conditions agreement. If you break the rules, you are out. There are also extensive legal regulations as mentioned above and if you break them, even worse - your business is out of the game. 2. I can change the rules Did we mention you don’t make the rules in the first place? Well, you can’t change them either. If you say that a bag is $50 in your online shop and it is $65 in fact, you mislead customers and you are obliged to give them the bag for $50. You can’t change your mind about the rules because you are not their owner - the legal system and social media platform decide even what contests you can run. And once you have said something online, once you have made a promise to someone, it can be considered a contract agreement already. Don’t make empty promises! 3. I don’t have responsibility You might not have control, but you have responsibility. Don’t you just love social media now? You are responsible for the information you provide and you are also responsible for posts from your employees and social media managers. Your responsibility starts with legal and platform compliance but extends to the behaviour of employees on social media. You have the responsibility to provide truthful information and address issues with customers and followers. Deleting a comment doesn’t make it disappear forever. If you go to court, social media platforms might provide information and proof that you thought is long gone. To be honest, this is just the tip of the iceberg. You can’t even imagine the assumptions that business managers make every day regarding social media. The fact that social media is digital makes it less personal, less tangible in a way. But it is 100% real and the law applies to it fully. Don’t play a game or make expensive experiments with social media. The least you could lose is your social media account and following. The worst that can happen is getting sued by a Facebook “fan”. I won’t even get started on the endless list of lawsuits they can file. Social media and the law are not irrelevant. In fact the more we use social media, the tighter the regulations. Be prepared to start looking at regulations first, and schedule posts second.

Read more
3 Things Every Social Media Policy Should Have

Does your business have a Facebook page? What about an Instagram account? It probably does, but even if it doesn’t (wait, no social media accounts? Have you heard we are in the 21st century?) you need to read this article! Social media is the angel and the devil for businesses – it can make you thrive or smack you down...It all depends on one single document. ​ Your Social Media Policy What is a social media policy? A social media policy doesn’t need you to be tech savvy - it is a company code of conduct that concerns employee behaviour (i.e. what they post) on social media networks, blogs, messaging apps, forums, email, etc. Who needs a social media policy? You might think that if you don’t have a blog, Facebook page or Twitter account you are safe. You are wrong! You are never safe because your employees and customers have social media accounts, blogs and they chat on forums. What they say about your company affects you commercially and legally even if you decide to be just an observer. That’s why every business needs a social media policy even if you choose to stay traditional brick-and-mortar. How do you create a social media policy? The thing with social media is you can’t predict everything that can happen. You can’t just say “If this, then do that” because the environment we operate in changes so fast -- the policy from yesterday doesn’t make sense today. That’s why instead of trying to create rules, focus on creating a culture of the way we do things around here. What do you do with social media policy? Make everyone sign it! The best way to handle this is to have it attached to employment (and termination) contracts. If you want to make sure all your current employees understand and adhere to it, schedule a 2-hour training session in which you explain the policy, why it is important and when it is to be applied. Social media policies are very flexible and should reflect the nature of your business. In our legal experience however, there are a few things that every social media policy should tackle. For the safety of your company, your customers and your employee... ...and here they are: The 3 things that should be in every social media policy: Prohibit the sharing of confidential, sensitive, copyrighted, trademark information on personal accounts, as well as, defamation of colleagues or customers. Explain when and how employees need to identify themselves as such (when talking about products or services) and how they can use the company name or brand. Set boundaries with customers - when are employees to enter an argument or make a comment, in what way they should respond to customers and how much of the customer experience are they allowed to post online.​ There is much more that can be included. The more complex the organisation, the more complex the policies will get. One important tip is to consult a lawyer first as to what are the regulations of employee - customer communications so that you make sure your policies are not breaking any laws (by posting personal information about a purchase like an address or telephone number of a customer, for example). Now that you know how a social media policy can break or make your online reputation, what are you going to do? If you have an in-house lawyer, she will be able to help you draft your first social media policy. If you don’t have one, you should get one fast!

Read more
4 Legal Documents Every Business Owner Needs

Nobody likes legal documents -- especially business owners who are multitasking and trying to manage the company’s financial health. Legal documents seem unnecessary long, filled with terminology only lawyers understand and all look the same to the naked eye. And there are always more and more legal documents that a business owner needs…Wouldn’t you like it if that ended? How about we tell you which are the 4 legal documents every business needs so you know that you at least have the most basic protection? If you have these 4 legal documents in order you, don’t need to worry about the rest if you don’t want to (although all are nice to have). Let’s make your business legal life easier…. Here is all you need: 1.  A will Every business owner needs a business will separate from her or his personal will. Preparing a will not only concerns your assets but allows you to take care of your final affairs in the way that you want to. A will is important for your business to be protected and for your family to receive enough funds to be able to sustain their lifestyle. Whatever the fate of your business might be, it’s you who should decide it. 2. Power of Attorney On many occasions disease, accidents and incapacitation can strike faster than we can react. When a business owner cannot run the business because of health or personal issues, it is imperative that he continues to provide for his staff, partners and customers. This can most easily be done through a power of attorney. This document can be designed so that it is activated only if the business owner is not able to take decisions or take care of his or her own affairs. You can be in control even when your life is out of control by choosing who will operate it in your place. 3. Contracts Okay, you got us. This is not one single legal document but multiple templates for business relationships. You need several types of contracts that will make interacting with people easier - supplier contracts, client contracts, lease agreements, employment and termination contracts, confidentiality agreements and contractor contracts. If you do not have contracts, be sure that the other side will have. And the contracts their lawyers drafted won’t protect your business interest, that’s for sure. 4.  IP agreement An intellectual property agreement shows your investors that you own the IP you will be working with. Before you can have such an agreement, you need to legally protect your IP. This includes trademarks, applications, designs, written, video and audio content, business blueprints, strategies and processes. Everything that allows you to be different from your competition and operate your business in the way you do is your intellectual property and should be legally protected. Your IP agreement shows investors and shareholders that you have taken care of that. You will be doing the smart thing if you have these legal documents drafted as soon as you start your business. But you will be acting even smarter if you have them reviewed annually to make sure they reflect the growth and development you experience. Your trusted business lawyer will draft legal documents tailored specifically to your business needs, so please take the time to find a good one. Don’t copy paste legal documents from the Internet without reading them first… Good luck in your business and if you need any legal documents drafted for a flat fee, get in touch!

Read more
5 tips to protect your business from identity thieves

Most of us are well aware of the risk of personal identity theft, but what about business identity theft? There is no doubt that criminals have found identity theft to be very lucrative, especially when compared to the low risk involved. As a result, identity crimes have evolved far beyond petty crimes involving lost credit cards and stolen identities of individuals. In fact, identity theft has become the #1 for profit crime in the United States, and costs businesses around the world roughly US$221 billion annually! Unfortunately, criminals have now set their sights on unsuspecting businesses of all sizes as easy targets for identity theft. The potential rewards for business identity theft are often far greater than for individuals, so make sure you’re aware of the risks and take steps to protect your business! What is Business Identity Theft? The media often mischaracterizes business identity theft, causing business owners to be unaware of the true nature of the crime and inadequately protected. Business identity theft is not merely an information security breach, nor the loss or theft of consumer information possessed by a business. Rather, it involves a person or other entity impersonating the actual business itself. Generally, illicit gains are made by engaging in fraudulent activities aimed at creditors, suppliers, business owners, consumers, and even the government. It is important to note that no business is immune to the threat of identity theft. Criminals target businesses of all sizes and structures, including sole traders, partnerships, trusts, non-profits, corporations, LLCs, and more! Your Business – the New BIG Target So why are businesses becoming such a popular target of identity theft? Well, it helps to think of things from the criminal’s perspective by comparing the potential illegal proceeds of personal identity theft to those of business identity theft: ·      Businesses often maintain much larger bank account balances than individuals. ·      It is usually easier to get credit and open new accounts for businesses. ·      Businesses usually have higher credit limits. ·      Automated fraud screening systems are less likely to detect unusual spending patterns when businesses make large purchases. ·      Information needed to impersonate a business is often publicly available, so criminals don’t even need to steal much information. ·      It is difficult to investigate and prosecute for these crimes, especially because they often cross jurisdictions. Protecting your Business It should be clear by now the reasons why it is vital for all business owners to take positive action to protect their business from identity theft. Once a criminal gets hold of sensitive information, they will often rack up massive charges very quickly – and by then, it’s often too late. This can put your customers’ financial records in jeopardy damage a business owner’s credit history, and cause a multitude of other problems. So, the best cure is always prevention! Here are 5 tips for keeping your business information safe and avoiding becoming the victim of business identity theft: 1.Minimise stored information The more data you store, the easier it Is for criminals to access your data and engage in identity theft. Therefore, you should only store information if it is absolutely necessary. If you do need to store certain types of information, it can be effective to store corresponding information in different places. For example, keep your username stored in one place and the password in another place in a way that makes sense to you. This will make it more difficult for criminals to use your information. 2. Have a data destruction policy Eliminate information that is no longer needed. For example, delete data from files that haven’t been used for a long time and aren’t needed. Also, if you replace computer equipment, it is advised that you destroy the old equipment so thieves can’t recover the information stored on the equipment. 3. Protect paper documents Keep all sensitive information in a safe place, such as in a locked drawer. Only trusted employees should have access to such documents and deal with them responsibly. Once confidential documents are no longer needed, they should be shredded. This will protect the business from any thieves diving through recycling bins! 4. Have password protection for everything For every software platform or website a business uses, it should require a password to log in. It is best to make complicated passwords and to use different passwords for different log ins, otherwise a criminal could access multiple accounts with ease. 5. Implement data encryption business-wide Technologies are available to prevent business identity theft. By using a data encryption system, any information leaving your business can be kept secure. This technology uses an algorithm to convert normal text into indecipherable mumbo-jumbo (in layman’s terms) so it cannot be understood by unwanted parties. Take Action Today! Business identity theft is a serious problem which is rising in popularity due to the huge potential profits and the relatively small risks. Therefore, business owners must be proactive in their fight against these crimes. Implement the 5 tips above to minimise the risk to your business! If you would like any further information regarding your business, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Read more
5 Tips To Protect Your Intellectual Property

When it comes to your business, one of your most precious assets is your intellectual properties.  A strong IP portfolio can be the foundation of your business.  It will be what sets you apart from your competitors.  It will be what gives you the edge in acquiring customers. A diverse IP portfolio can also protect you from litigation.  If you have been following the technology industry news, then you might be familiar with the patent war between Samsung and Apple.  There have also been companies that specialize on preying upon businesses that have weak IP portfolios in order to gain a quick profit through the courts.   A strong portfolio will help you discourage potential litigation by leveraging the strength of your own IP. So how can you build and protect your own IP portfolio?  Here are a few tips. 1. Keep your ideas secret The best way to keep your ideas from getting stolen is by keeping them a secret.  Talk about it only with people that need to know about it.  If you do need to discuss this idea with anyone, it’s a good idea to have them sign a confidentiality agreement.  These agreements will have to be dated with the time and place of signing and signed in your presence with a few more witnesses. Why would this be important?  Keeping people that know about your ideas under an agreement to keep them a secret would discourage leaks since they are now legally bound not to discuss your ideas with anyone else.  The time and date on the agreement will also help you establish that you are the first to come up with that idea should you run into a legal dispute over your ideas. 2. Research by searching for existing patents Are your ideas already registered?  A quick Google patent search can save you a lot of money by letting you know immediately if your ideas have already been registered by another entity.   3. Register your ideas It is important for you to register your ideas.  Depending on your country, your ideas can be protected as a patent, trademark or copyright.  The important thing is to register your ideas as fast as possible after you’ve done your initial research. Patents are basically awarded to inventions.  If you’ve come up with a totally new product, or a new process that is useful, unique and non-obvious, you can protect your ideas by applying for a patent.  As the owner of the patent, you can prevent others from using your invention for a number of years depending on your country’s laws. Trademarks are awarded to your product, business and service names.  Trademarks will keep other businesses from using the same name of your products and prevent confusion that may take place with multiple products of the same name in the market. Copyrights are awarded to original works of authorship.  This includes literary, musical and dramatic works.  Copyrights can also be extended towards software.  In most cases, copyrights are awarded as soon as you fix your work into its distribution medium (for example: burning your music into CDs for distribution and sale or publishing your new website).  It is best to affix the copyright symbol immediately to show your intent to enforce your ownership over the material.  In some countries, registration of copyrights isn’t mandatory, but it is still best practice to register for a copyright so that it is easier to protect your IP in court. Since laws will vary across countries, you should always seek legal counsel from a dedicated IP attorney.  Also remember that IP protections can take time to process (sometimes years) depending on where you applied it, so filing earlier is better than later. Create other means to prove ownership over an idea While having your property registered is already a very potent piece of evidence demonstrating your ownership over an idea, you also want to create supporting pieces of evidence to further protect you in case a legal patent dispute takes place.  These include NDA’s, contracts, emails, evidence of use that show activity around the IP that can be time verified.  4. Look into the future The best ideas are the ideas that will be useful just beyond the horizon.  Try to visualize what the future will be like and start protecting your ideas that would work best in the immediate future.   5. Look into registering your ideas in other countries The thing about IP portfolios is that they are mostly only protected in the countries you registered them in.  For example, a patent you own in the USA won’t hold much ground in the EU.  Consider filing your patents in other countries to provide better protection internationally. Do not underestimate the importance of your original ideas.  Employing proper measures to protect them will minimize the chances that your competition will steal your ideas.  If they do attempt to steal them, then you’ll have the necessary tools to protect your business through the legal system.  

Read more
Advertising and promotion for your new online business

When advertising and promoting your online business, you should bear in mind that there are legal ramifications of your actions. By being mindful of the following few common advertising and promoting mistakes, you can make sure that you stay on the right side of the law!   Making misleading and false claims When marketing your online business and designing your website, you need to ensure that you do not make any claims about your product or service which may mislead clients or create false impressions.       Below, you will find a list of some common types of false and misleading advertisements that you may unintentionally create.   ·      Fine print: while many advertisements do include fine print, the words in the fine print must not contradict the overall message of the advertisement. ·      Comparative advertising: many advertisements compare their product or service to others on the market. This comparison must be accurate, otherwise the advertisement could be considered misleading. ·      Bait advertising: this occurs when you advertise something to be on sale when there is either no, or very little stock available. To avoid being misleading, the advertisement should state that there is a short supply of the good in question. ·      Environmental claims: if you advertise that your product or service is environmentally friendly, you must be able to substantiate this claim.   You can still use very exaggerated phrases, which are referred to as “puffery” These are the types of phrases that no one could treat seriously or find misleading. An example of this is “We sell the fluffiest puppies in the world” or “we have the juiciest steaks in all the land”.   Using Social Media Using social media is a fantastic way to advertise and promote your business directly to prospective clients. It is your responsibility to ensure that any content published on your social media page is accurate, irrespective of whether you were the author of it. The best way to minimise the risk of using social media to advertise and promote is to avoid making any statement online, that you would not make in any of your other advertisements (such as in print). You should prohibit others from commenting on your page with misleading claims. You have the power to remove and reply to comments on your social media pages and should do so if someone is posting misleading statements. You should bear in mind that social media is a 24/7 operation and that it is your responsibility to monitor your pages.   Spamming A good way of advertising and promoting a new online business is by sending ‘cold’ messages to potential clients.  You do need to be careful that these messages are not considered spam. Spamming occurs when you send people spontaneous messages without their consent. This is an illegal act in Australia. You should only email potential clients who have expressly or impliedly given consent to be contacted. If the client’s email address or contact details are publicly available online and there is no attached statement that commercial messages are not wanted, then this is a form of inferred consent. You should also bear in mind that the subject matter of the message you are sending needs to be relevant to their business.  

Read more
Business Brokers: Who They Are And What Do They Do?

As a business person who wish to buy or sell a business, you might be wondering if it’s really good to consult a business broker or not. Apart from selling a business, you might just wish to know who business brokers are and what they do. In this article we focus on “what is business broker in Australia and what they do”. Who are business brokers? A business broker's main focus is helping people buy or sell a business. They are professionals in what they do and have inestimable knowledge and experience when it comes to business trading (i.e. buying and selling a business). They are people who understand the local market and can guide you and prevent you from making harmful mistakes.         What people commonly misunderstand is the differences between buying or selling of a business and buying or selling real estate, which many think are the same, but are totally different. How a business broker can help someone SELL their business Making a decision to sell your business is a very big step. Possibly it may be because you are retiring, or you just want a change of business or lifestyle. In some cases, the decision may come about due to health reasons. Whatever the case may be, your business is your valuable belonging, and as a result you are extremely protective of it. Business brokers understand this and recognize that it's not just about selling the business. It's about getting to know who the seller is, so that they can find a like-minded buyer who can take the business to the next level. Based on initial meetings with a seller, and after reviewing pertinent documentation such as financials, lease and or franchise agreements, the first step to having a successful sale is to correctly "value" the business. A Business Broker is likely the best person to do this. They can then advertise your business for sale, (without disclosing its name or location), handle potential buyer inquiries, handle negotiations, and finally assist in the closing process. The procedure of selling a business is complex and time consuming, so using a Business Broker will allow you to continue focusing on the operation of the business and in turn maintain the value of that business. How business brokers help someone looking to BUY a Business A business broker has an absolute understanding of several core areas of business and based on their experience can identify any area of the sale that could be a potential concern to a buyer. For example, do the financial statements look reasonable for this particular type of business? Are there concerns with the lease or franchise agreements? What financing options are available for purchasing that type of business? It is important to recognize that emotions can cloud one's judgment, distort reality or distract an individual’s perception of an opportunity. It's where glowing issues can be missed or assumed to be not of any particular concern. Likely, due to the buyer's overwhelming thoughts of money pouring into their bank account, a business broker will at least, help ground you and offer you a more objective opinion on the situation.

Read more
Business Structures. Which ones to choose from?

Every start-up business has this question in mind. “Which business structure is best for me and my business?” There are four main business structures used in Australia namely Sole Trader, Partnership, Company and Trusts. All structures have some advantages and disadvantages. Let’s know about these one by one. First and most simple form of business structure is sole trader. Usually a sole trader is hundred percent owner of the business and thus for starting it does not require any formal agreements. The profits and losses belong to the owner themselves, which means all profits are personally taxable. So if a sole trader may be liable for tax up to 46.5%. There is no separation between business or private assets and thus the owner is personally liable for all liabilities which is unlimited in a way that in bad circumstances a sole trader’s personal assets may be available for creditor’s to meet liabilities if the business. Partnership involves a written or oral agreement between two or more parties who agree to carry on a business together and all income and expenses are shared between them according to their agreement. Partnership is simple and cheap to establish but then again the liability is unlimited to the partners and thus each partner is jointly and severally liable for the debts of the business. Partners cannot pay salary and wages to partners themselves and thus they are subject to PAYG Instalment tax. Most important part of partnership is a mutual agreement and similarity of ideas, because there is always a chance of disagreement between partners. Disagreement is end is agreement. Company structure is most widely used structure in businesses across Australia. A company is a separate legal entity formed under Australian Securities and Investment commission also known as ASIC. Directors are responsible for management of the company and also have important legal and professional responsibilities as companies are highly regulated and controlled. Unlike sole trader and partnership a company director’s liability is limited which gives some protection to director’s who work professionally. It is easy to transfer the ownership of the company and losses can be carried forward. Company tax rate is 30% at the moment. Company is more expensive to set up with company registration, ABN and PAYG registration costing up to $1200.00 and every year ASIC fee ranging from $212.00 to $226.00. Employer must pay employees superannuation of 9% of all wages > than $450.00 and also pay workers compensation. BAS and Tax law applied to company is more complex than other structures. Family Trust allows income to be distributed to family members and usually it is beneficial if the children are more than 18 years old. There are possibilities of income splitting and security of assets as well. Profits which are distributed to minors in excess of $1667 per annum are taxed at 46.5%. Undistributed profits are taxed at 46.5%. Losses cannot be transferred and must remain in the trust until utilised. All the business structures have something good about them and something bad about them. But if you have a good business idea and business is run well you can always decide on which structure best suits your needs.  

Read more