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Why AutoResponders can be Legally Required
By: Developer Shed
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    Why AutoResponders can be Legally Required
    by Brian Kindsvater

    Do you market your products or services via the Internet to customers in California? Many businesses do, but hardly anyone is aware of a little known law in California that is intended to keep customers from being scammed by unknown website operators.

    And one effect of the law is to make it more likely that you will need an autoresponder to comply with your disclosure requirements.

    In a nutshell, before selling to California residents you must disclose your real name and address. California buyers are also entitled to receive that information by email, and it must be provided within five days of their request.

    Here is what the law says. California Business and Professions Code section 17538(d) states in part:

    'A vendor conducting business through the Internet or any other electronic means of communication shall do all of the following when the transaction involves a buyer located in this state:

    (1) Before accepting any payment or processing any debit or credit charge or funds transfer, the vendor shall disclose to the buyer in writing or by electronic means of communication, such as e-mail or an on-screen notice, the vendor's return and refund policy, the legal name under which the business is conducted and, except as provided [ in other sections ] the complete street address from which the business
    is actually conducted.

    (2) If the disclosure of the vendor's legal name and address information required by this subdivision is made by on-screen notice, all of the following shall apply:

    (A) The disclosure of the legal name and address information shall appear on any of the following: (i) the first screen displayed when the vendor's electronic site is accessed, (ii) on the screen on which goods or services are first offered, (iii) on the screen on which a buyer may place the order for goods or services, (iv) on the screen on which the buyer may enter payment information, such as a credit card account number, or (v) for nonbrowser-based technologies, in a manner that gives the user a reasonable opportunity to review that information. The communication of that disclosure shall not be structured to be smaller or less legible than the text of the offer of the goods or services.

    (B) The disclosure of the legal name and address information shall be accompanied by an adjacent statement describing how the buyer may receive the information at the buyer's e-mail address. The vendor shall provide the disclosure information to the buyer at the buyer's e-mail address within five days of receiving the buyer's request.'

    The best way to make sure that this disclosure information is provided, and provided in a timely manner, is to setup an autoresponder.

    There are good resources available that will help you select the best autoresponder for your needs. One is located at and the other is at

    One simple solution is to include an appropriately placed statement that customers can obtain the information about your company by emailing a request to a specified email address. That email address is setup with an autoresponder to automatically return the requested information.

    Complying with the law can be easy. Knowing what laws need to be complied with can sometimes be the more difficult task.

    Brian Kindsvater has been marketing online since 1994 and Brian Kindsvater's legal articles can be found at

    DISCLAIMER: The content provided in this article is not warranted or guaranteed by Developer Shed, Inc. The content provided is intended for entertainment and/or educational purposes in order to introduce to the reader key ideas, concepts, and/or product reviews. As such it is incumbent upon the reader to employ real-world tactics for security and implementation of best practices. We are not liable for any negative consequences that may result from implementing any information covered in our articles or tutorials. If this is a hardware review, it is not recommended to open and/or modify your hardware.

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