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Guide to Ecommerce Regulatory Compliance

By: Jackson Cuneo
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As the ecommerce industry becomes an increasingly global phenomenon, the complexity of complying with a diverse and evolving set of regulatory requirements only intensifies for today’s international brands.

It’s crucial for businesses to not only understand but also ensure compliance with these regulations. This guide delves into key ecommerce regulations globally, offering insights into what businesses must know and do to maintain compliance and operate successfully in the international market.

Why Ecommerce Compliance Matters

Ecommerce compliance is fundamental for businesses operating in the digital space. Firstly, compliance helps ensure legal and ethical operations, aligning business practices with regional and international laws. This alignment is critical to build trust with customers and partners, who are increasingly aware of and concerned about data privacy and consumer rights.[1]

Secondly, successful compliance programs and practices can help avoid costly legal disputes and potential fines. As regulations change and compliance burdens grow with entry into each new market, so does the potential cost of non-compliance, which can lead to significant financial penalties.

Finally, being compliant is not just about adhering to regulations; it’s about embracing responsible business practices that enhance customer experiences and promote trust within the ecommerce ecosystem. Non-compliance risks not only financial penalties but also long-term reputational damage, which can be more devastating than immediate financial or legal consequences.

Ecommerce Regulations You Need to Know (and Comply With)

Navigating the labyrinth of ecommerce regulations is a daunting yet essential task for businesses looking to thrive in the digital marketplace. These regulations, varying from data protection to financial security, serve as the backbone for trustworthy and legal online operations. Below, we explore key regulations that today’s brands should be well-acquainted with to help ensure compliance and safeguard their operations in the global ecommerce sphere.


The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is a critical regulation for ecommerce businesses handling credit card transactions. The standards outline the necessary security measures to protect cardholder data and ensure secure transactions. Compliance with PCI DSS is not optional; it’s a requirement for all businesses processing, storing, or transmitting credit card information.

GDPR and Privacy Legislation

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a pivotal privacy law in the European Union, dictating how companies should handle personal data. The law was designed to give EU citizens more control over their personal data and to unify data privacy laws across Europe. GDPR regulations impact any business, including those in ecommerce, that processes the personal data of EU residents, regardless of the organization’s location.

Key provisions include requiring explicit consent for data processing, providing data breach notifications, ensuring the right to access personal data, and the right to be forgotten. Companies must also implement adequate data protection measures and can face significant penalties for non-compliance. GDPR represents a significant shift in data privacy regulation, emphasizing transparency, security, and accountability in the handling of personal data.

A landmark when it was passed in 2018, the GPDR is today far from the only important privacy regulation that ecommerce brands should be aware of. The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) in the United States and Japan’s PrivacyMark system offer similar protections, emphasizing consumers’ rights over their data. Compliance with these regulations involves obtaining clear consent for data collection, ensuring data security, and respecting user rights regarding their personal information.

International Tax Burdens, Shipping Regulations, and Invoicing Requirements

Global ecommerce involves navigating diverse international tax laws, shipping regulations, and invoicing requirements. Businesses must understand varying VAT rates, customs duties, and shipping restrictions in different regions. Moreover, accurate invoicing and record-keeping are essential to remain compliant with local and international tax authorities.

SOC 1 and 2

System and Organization Controls, specifically SOC 1 and SOC 2, formerly known as Service Organization Control (SOC) reports, are frameworks for managing data security set by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). While SOC 1 focuses on financial reporting, SOC 2 addresses security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality, and privacy of a system. Ecommerce businesses must adhere to these standards to ensure secure and reliable operations, especially when handling sensitive customer data.

China’s ELC, DSL, and PIPL

China’s Ecommerce Law (ELC), Data Security Law (DSL), and Personal Information Protection Law (PIPL) are key regulations in the world’s largest ecommerce market. These laws govern online business activities, data security, and personal data protection. Understanding and complying with these regulations is crucial for businesses operating or planning to enter the Chinese market.

UK Ecommerce Regulations

The third largest ecommerce market in the world, the UK’s regulatory landscape includes the Consumer Rights Act, Consumers Contracts Regulations, and the Online Safety Bill.[2] These laws protect consumer rights, dictate how goods and services are sold online, and ensure a safer online environment. Compliance ensures that businesses respect consumer rights and provide clear, honest information in their online transactions.

In particular, the Consumers Contracts Regulations, enacted in 2014, establish a wide set of strong consumer rights in transactions made over a distance, made particularly with the burgeoning ecommerce industry in mind. Under the Consumer Contracts Regulations, consumers, for instance, possess the right to cancel an order for goods made at a distance from the moment they place an order until 14 days from when they receive their order. Among other things, the regulations also prohibit excessive charges, provide avenues for consumers to make official complaints, and more.

How to Navigate International Ecommerce Compliance Complexity

While this guide covers several crucial regulations, it’s by no means exhaustive; indeed, it’s just scratching the surface of regulations in only a few of the world’s largest markets.

In reality, the landscape of ecommerce compliance is vast and ever-changing—and staying on top of it is no simple task for today’s brand.

However, complying with complex regulations doesn’t need to stand in the way of rapid international growth. Digital River, acting as a merchant of record, provides a comprehensive solution to navigate this complex terrain, taking on the financial and legal responsibilities of selling online—from tax registration, collection, and remittance, to GDPR, PCI, SOC, and local invoicing requirements—in order to simplify and accelerate your ability to reach new markets.

Contact us today to learn more about how we help you drive fast, risk-free global expansion—and deploy into new markets in as little as six weeks while reducing operating expenses by 20-30%.