How Creating an Online Business Works

BBB Online Seals and Privacy Policies

Once you have been in business for one year, you can apply for inclusion in the Better Business Bureau's Online Reliability Program. In 2010, it had 70,000 participating merchants. To get into the program and display its seal, you had to do the following things [source: Barlow]:

  • Agree to abide by its communications standards, which call for truth and accuracy (no deceptive or misleading ads)
  • Agree to share info about your business and its operations with consumers (no surprise fees, for example)
  • Clearly state your privacy policy, safeguard customers' information and abide by their email preferences
  • Honor any representations you make to customers, respond to their questions and follow the BBB's dispute resolution procedures
  • Take precautions when marketing to kids

Keep in mind the BBB doesn't endorse companies, so don't add any text to your site saying you're BBB-endorsed.

You must have a privacy policy and a usage policy for your new business website. These policies state how you intend to use the information, personal and otherwise, that you've collected from product orders. When writing your policies, make the language easy to understand and clearly state how customers' information will be used. It's generally recommended to give consumers the option of not sharing their personal information (assuming you're planning on sharing the data you collect with others).

If you will definitely be sharing their information, state with whom you will be sharing it. Remember to include a statement about how you use cookies. Many people are still not clear about how cookies work, and are not comfortable with the idea. You may also want to set up your system so that it doesn't rely on cookies, since many people have them disabled in their browser.

Once you've written your policies, place links to them in conspicuous spots on your home page and ordering pages. Finally, keep in mind there's no messing around here. You have to follow your own policies to the letter or you may be in violation of the FTC Act, which bans unfair or deceptive business practices [source: Federal Trade Commission].