E-commerce continues to grow and the convenience of shopping online has become a normal part of our everyday lives. Not only has it changed our buying habits, but it has also opened up the opportunity to become an online seller as well. In this article, we will take a closer look to the legal aspect of e-commerce and raise some issues to be aware of when considering selling via the internet.

We will focus on domestic e-commerce, but if you consider selling internationally there will be other important issues to consider such as customs for import/export. When selling products online domestically in Turkey, you will be faced with a number of issues to consider. Your first shall be about the nature of your transactions: Will you sell business-to-business or business to consumer? What kind of product will you offer? Will you sell new or second hand products? Are you legally permitted to sell the products, or are they restricted by any special regulations?

First of all, you must be sure that the product that you want to sell is not a restricted or forbidden product such as drugs, explosives, promotional materials and others that cannot be sold to consumers. You must also ensure that the product you want to sell does not require an additional license; alcohol, tobacco products, prescription drugs and lottery tickets require specific licenses to sell, for example.

Intellectual Property rights are also important, and to avoid falling foul of a legal breach you need to check that you have the right to sell the product. This can include checking that your chosen product manufacturer has the right to produce the design and to market it, and whether there are any exclusive distributor agreements in place for that product in the country.

  1. First Hand / New Products: Selling of first hand products to "consumers" is covered by the Consumer Protection Law, numbered 6502. This defines a consumer as "a real or legal person acting for non-commercial or non-professional purposes". This law has a broad scope aimed at protecting the consumer, including regulations on after-sale services and on certificates of warranty. On top of this legislation, the Regulation on Distance Agreements also applies to e-commerce selling, which imposes additional liabilities such as providing preliminary information to the consumer with respect to the distance selling agreement, and making the consumer aware of their right of withdrawal from the transaction when certain conditions are met.

    The seller should also have the intellectual property rights to sell the product, through a valid license or ownership of the product.
  2. Second Hand Products: Sellers of second-hand products have important liabilities towards the consumer too. The features of the product that you are selling should match the features advertised online. Even if it has some deficiencies, these should be informed up front to consumers via the product description text and/or pictures presented. The consumer has the right to return a second hand product if they can claim that a particular deficiency was not mentioned in the product advertisement published online. This also applies if you claim that your product is an original second hand product by a particular brand, and if the product is not an original of that brand it can be deemed a deficiency and your second hand product is returnable.

The Regulation on Distance Agreements is also binding for sellers of second hand goods. Therefore, the consumer has the same right of withdrawal mentioned for new products. Unlike for new products, the seller does not normally require an intellectual property license to sell, provided that the product was legally sold domestically by the first IP right holder (first seller), and that reselling of the same product as second hand does not violate the distributions rights of the IP owner for the product.

If your target buyers will be businesses, instead of Consumer Protection Law, you will need to primarily consider the Turkish Code of Obligations, Commercial Law and related legislation. Both parties would likely be involved in drafting of agreements, so it is advisable to seek expert assistance when negotiating and finalising these contracts.

There are many issues to consider before starting selling online, especially if you choose to launch your business by creating a new platform. Our team has a depth of knowledge in this area, and would be happy to assist, but above all, we wish you good luck with your endeavors!

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.