imagesCompanies that engage in e-commerce, B2C sales with consumers have the same kind of obligations to conduct their business ethically as companies transacting business any other way. However, the lack of geographic boundaries and the potential anonymity of Web-based commerce suggest that B2C companies have an even greater necessity to act ethically. A customer who orders merchandise or services on a website may not be able to easily assess the ethics or trustworthiness of a company who sells online. For example, if you buy a defective or spoiled product from your local grocery store, you can simply return it quickly. Your grocery store has a local presence, and you buy there because you know the company is real and trustworthy. However, anyone can establish a website that looks like a bona fide company, but may be just a false storefront used to defraud customers. In B2C e-commerce, customers do not have the same capability to visit and become familiar with the company as they do when they are buying from a local store.

In a previous section of this chapter, the “Online Privacy” section of the AICPA Trust Services Principles was described. For the most part, these types of practices are an ethical obligation, but not necessarily a legal requirement. For example, there is no legal requirement to disclose privacy ...

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