How To Commence A Lawsuit Against An Internet Business

Internet Business also known as Online Business are commercial dealings transacted on the web. In most cases, parties to the business may not know each other or reside in the same country or continent but will discharge their obligations in the deal according to certain rules, norms, and standards.  In some cases, payment for goods and service are made using digital currency also known as Crypto-Currency which conventionally is a shift from the generally accepted legal tenders or virtual currency recognized by State authorities.

Internet Business or e-business is any brand of business or commercial transaction that includes giving out information across the internet.

Internet Business

Due to the growing acceptance and dynamic approvals received by Internet Business in recent times, it has become imperative for Internet Business owners learn the rules of how to bring a lawsuit against an erring Internet businesses in cases of breach of contract, infringements of copyrights, and all forms of cyber crimes and violations online which is inevitable. Suing an Internet Business can be very complicated due to the unconventional practices and technological intricacies, difference in locations, difficulties faced as a result of how to determine which jurisdictional laws to apply, new legislation, obsolete and inapplicable laws and procedures or none existing laws   Some Internet Business commences from the internet and are virtually concluded, this may also pose as a difficulty to attorneys seeking to initiate legal action.

Most virtual businesses are currently under threat; shopping is done at home and packages are delivered at your doorstep. Websites have overtaken the place of an office, and real estate is losing, most people create websites for their families or small businesses and do not need to have a physical office. Some persons do their work over the Internet and do not need to step out of the home. Some trade in crypto-currency and have avoided the stock exchange market completely.  Books and magazines are sold online as hard copies are no longer convenient. There are various freelancing platforms where almost all services are rendered, and business owners do not need to place employees on the permanent pay role. Technology has made things a lot smoother and convenient.

It is essential you bear in mind that from all the scenarios painted above it is possible for something to go wrong. Some of the things that can go wrong may be due to situations deliberately created by fraudulent parties while others may be negligence or force majeure.

An example is where you try to exchange your crypto-currency using the blockchain technology bearing in mind that it is a hazardous anonymous transaction. What happens where you transfer your currency to a person who refuses to credit you with a value of the virtual currency as agreed?

Another scenario can occur where you make payment for a product expecting it to arrive as advertised but upon delivery, it becomes completely different from your expectation. Another example may arise where you met a client on a freelancing platform who gives you a job order to develop a simple website or write a white paper for a prospective project and agreed to pay a certain amount but after you have done your best to improve the site or write the white paper then the client refused to make payment on the basis of none satisfaction with job quality or lack of following precise instruction and details, while deep in you, you had put your best to deliver the job within time.

Most of the disputes arising from Internet Business are not different from the face-to-face conflicts that may have been experienced by business owners. However, that of the Internet is emanating from or connected to the net.

Small Claims Court Jurisdiction Over Internet Business

As with face to face dispute, depending on the location or place of residence of the person(s) or Business you intend to sue, you may approach the Small Claims Court to get compensation from an erring person or business you have dealt with only over the Internet

Your ability to sue someone in a Small Claims Court when you have suffered an economic loss is not automatic. The court must have jurisdictional powers over that particular person or business, which is grossly depending on where the party resides works or has a physical office or address.

It will be a lot easier if your Internet-related dispute is against a person or business that is located in your State of domicile. The issue of geographical jurisdiction is fundamental to all forms of adjudication before any court. While it is correct to state that you may sue a person or business in a Small Claims Court for Internet-related disputes, nevertheless, it is only in specific circumstances that you can sue a non-resident of your State in a small claims court.

It is noteworthy that a person who does not do business regularly with his State residents over the internet will not be able to sue in a Small Claims Court within his State, the rationale is based on the fact that the Rules of Court and practice procedure will not allow a person who does not reside, live, work, or frequently do business in a State to be sued therein and it will be therefore inconceivable in law to ask the person or firm to travel or relocate to your State just to defend himself from a lawsuit.

It is not sufficient to hold that a person or business does business frequently in a State just because he had a one-time transaction or event in the State. Conversely, if the person or business habitually transacts with Internet customers in your state, then, your local small claims court should be able to entertain your lawsuit.

Meaning Of “Regularly Do Business”

There are legal factors that determine whether or not a person or business can be considered a resident or whether the person “regularly do business” in the state to clothe a small claims court with jurisdictions in the milieu of Internet transactions. Various courts in different States have made a judicial pronouncement on the meaning, and different judges have expressed different opinions. However, the critical guiding principles are as highlighted below:

  • How often does the person or business do significant business with state residents?
  • How often does the person or business instruct agents or employees to your state to carry out or perform business transactions?
  • Whether the website carries out direct sales on the Internet as against passing on customers to offline suppliers, distributors, or retail stores?
  • Whether the person or business sought to be sued know your State of residence at the time of the transaction; for instance, whether you fill a form stating your details or have a package shipped to you.
  • Whether the person or business has physical offices or employee(s) in the state, notwithstanding that its primary “location” or place of business is on the Internet?
  • Whether the person or business practically advertise or solicit business or customers in your state?
  • Whether the person or business has a registered agent where court processes can be served in your state?
  • Whether Business have a known subsidiary in your State

The answer to some of these questions may guarantee the possibility or probability of successfully bringing a lawsuit against a person or Business Entity in a local small claims court within your state.

Internet Business

Terms and Conditions Agreement

Another crucial issue that may determine where and how you successfully proceed against and erring party in court is the condition of your transaction. You may have entered into a “Terms and Conditions” agreement with the person or Business Entity or owner/operator of the website that makes provision for the geographical location to institute a lawsuit.

Most internet users seldom read the lengthy “Terms and Conditions” not knowing that it is an enforceable legally binding agreement forming part of the rules of your online transaction; however, whether or not you read it, once you click to conclude your transaction online, it is deemed that you have executed the agreement and bound by the provisions of the agreement.

Once the contract makes provision for a place or location where all disputes will resolve; it automatically makes it impossible for any court or arbitration panel to consider or entertain the disputes. Some agreement also expressly makes provision for parties to first go to an arbitrator and where it fails, then parties can explore legal alternatives. Courts will not allow parties to circumvent the express provisions of an agreement ant Internet Business is not excluded.

Deliberate Injury

Where an Internet business deliberately or purposefully causes injury in a State and a party only because of the requirement of “regularly does business” wants to evade litigation or service of process, the courts in the State can assume jurisdiction on the ground of “purposefully causing injury in the state.” The party causing the damage can be compelled to court in the state where the injury occurred even if he does not do business regularly in State. The Court will compel the party who caused the injury to court if it is satisfied based on available evidence that the injury was deliberate.  Evidence that the action was “decisively directed” at the dwellers of the state or that the person who caused the damage had contacts within the state will be sufficient to assume jurisdiction over that person or business entity.

Evidence of “purposefully causing injury in the state” can be deduced from a situation where more than one resident suffers particular harm as a result of use or consumption of same product within the same period.

Legal Technicalities And Objections That Can Be Raised By Nonresidents In An Attempt To Sue Them In A Small Claims Court

The rules of courts are usually strict in relation to commencing a lawsuit against a person who already does not regularly do business in a State or a nonresident. The Court considers a nonresident or a person who does not usually do business in a State as highly disadvantaged due to incredible disturbances of traveling that will be experienced in the process of defending a lawsuit out of the place of residence.

 

Some Internet Business Entity has also taken advantage of innocent customers to undo or defraud them from outside jurisdictions o place of residence arming themselves with the knowledge of the legal impossibilities and/or exceptions of suing a nonresident party.

 Internet Business

The Powers Of Federal Trade Commission To Entertain Consumer Complaints Over Internet Transactions

Internet users are generally advised in addition to filing a lawsuit to consider the option of channeling their consumer complaints officially to the Federal Trade Commission for disputed internet transaction(s) against the person or business.

The Federal Trade Commission is empowered by law to take decisions over disputed internet transaction(s), and such decision(s) will be binding on parties and legally enforceable.

You must note that all that is contained herein is for your general knowledge. It is advisable you contact an attorney knowledgeable in cyber law who understands the intricacies of Internet Business:

Are you are in need of an attorney versed in Online Business or E-Business?

Are your facing any issue related to cyber law or connected to the use of the internet?

Do you need the counsel or an attorney before you start a business on the internet?

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UpCounsel has lawyers who are well-versed in the dynamics of internet law. They can figure out cyber law activities into multiple fields of law, such as technology, communications, security, and trademark/copyright, and can help resolve your internet-related legal issues.

 

 

 

 

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