This blog is inspired by a question that I was recently asked while teaching in someone’s group, “ill there be increased legal regulation in the coaching industry?”

The answer: It’s hard to forecast. However, there are three things that not only coaches but any online business owners should consider regarding increased legal regulation. These include:

  • Website compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
  • Privacy Policies
  • Sales tax on digital products
  1. Website Compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

As we all know, the internet and technology are evolving our world and businesses more each day, and we can credit these innovations for making more information available, thriving connections, and growing our businesses online. 

However, there are compliance considerations with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), specifically Title III. Specifically, how  small businesses make their websites available to users with disabilities. 

The Benefits  of an Accessible Website

Making your website accessible to everybody is the right  thing to do! The internet is where everything happens. Can imagine your life without it? accessing what the internet has to offer should be a basic right for everybody, regardless of their abilities.

  • Avoid costly litigation by mitigate the risk of lawsuits by complying with accessibility legislation.
  • Boost brand perception by showing that accessibility is important to you will enhance your reputation.
  • Extend market reach, because the spending power of people with disabilities is more than $6 trillion. 

Legal Requirements

I am sure it will trigger a little bit of concern in the minds of small business owners wanting to make sure that they understand what is required of them.  In 2018, the DOJ clarified that websites are considered places of public accommodation and should therefore comply with the ADA Title III. US courts refer to WCAG 2.1 AA as the accessibility standard.  Since this time, accessibility has been  a source of growing legal enforcement action (300% increase in lawsuits since 2018 to be exact). Now, I want you to know that my team isn’t the type that plays on fear tactics.

With that said, the uncertainty leaves your business at risk, meaning you should consider proactive solutions to save time and prevent a costly lawsuit.  Fortunately, there are tools like AccessiBe, your compliance with the ADA is simple (trust me I installed it myself).  

Using AccessiBe for Your Website Compliance

AccessiBe is a website plugin, you can easily integrate into your website. How does it work? Automatically.  AccessiBe is transforming web accessibility by automating and streamlining the process to becoming compliant and accessible using state-of-the-art AI technology.

This means, no need to be a web developer or have the budget to hire a fancy web developer. Moreover, you don’t have to be worried that any future website changes might throw you out of compliance, because AccessiBe performs 24-hour automatic maintenance scans of new and updated content. The AccessiBe plugin will save you from all these worries.  

I can attest to the ease of AccessiBe because we use this tool for our own websites, thelaurenboyd.com and guidemybusiness.co. With AccessiBe, users with disabilities can easily navigate and interact on our websites. In return, our team can breathe easy because we’ve complied with the ADA requirements. In the event we ever receive a demand letter (which chances are low since AccessiBe is visible) we can provide an accessibility statement and certification of performance, which is emailed to my inbox each month. 

The Good News: We have a 10% off coupon for the AccessiBe, with code “GUIDEMYBUSINESS”. 

  1. Privacy Policies

Privacy Policies, also known as Privacy Notices, are statements or disclosures that explain how a business gathers, uses, discloses, and manages personal information. As a business owner, you should consider having a Privacy Policy, especially if you collect any personal information from your website visitors or customers. 

What triggers the need for a Privacy Policy?

  • Contact Form
  • Newsletter Opt-in
  • E-commerce Website 

Each of these collect personal information which includes, which includes any combination of name, email, billing or mailing address, credit card information, or any other information that could be used to identify a website visitor.

What if you don’t have privacy practices? Well, this is your sign to start with a Privacy Policy. A Privacy Policy template should have general baseline standards that comply with not only the state, federal, and international legal requirements, but also the best practices that respect the security of your website visitors’ personal information. If you are wondering how you know which legal requirements you are responsible for, it’s not about where your business is located or where your customers are buying from, rather it’s if you make your website available to consumers in that jurisdiction (whether that be a state or country).

Fun fact: California and Nevada, and most recently, Colorado are states that have enacted their own privacy laws that impact your website… if someone in those states can access your website, you need to comply with their legal requirements.

If you need more motivation than complying with legal requirements, consider that you are also demonstrating to your consumers how you are using their personal information responsibly and how you take the security of that information very seriously.

  1. Sales Tax on Digital Products

As mentioned above, the world is going digital, so of course more coaches and online businesses are offering digital products. Which begs the question, “How can the government monetize these digital products?” 

The more that businesses go online, the more driven the government to tax digital products. This scenario is beginning to plague more small business owners. I am sure your next question is does this affect my digital products? The answer is it depends, because sales tax laws are written and passed by each state. 

However, many of these state laws are way behind the current technology. Several states haven’t yet explicitly written laws or regulations covering the taxability of digital goods. If they do, they base their rulings on laws about digital ebook downloads and digital music sales that were originally written for mail-order companies. For this reason, it’s essential to take this blog as the loving nudge to research the requirements in the state where your business is doing business. 

Pro Tip: When reviewing sales tax on digital products, I encourage you to discuss with a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), tax attorney, or state’s tax authority.

What is a “Digital Product”

Let’s take it back a little bit to define “digital products.” Digital products are any materials you make available online. It can be ebooks, e-journals, podcasts, videos, images, movie newsletter subscriptions, music subscriptions, or any subscription services. One of the biggest trends is that states are differentiating between digital products downloaded into a device and digital products accessed online but not downloaded into a device.  To distinguish the difference between these two types of digital products, some states place significance on “electronic transfers.” For example, if you buy a movie online and it was transferred to you electronically, it’s considered downloaded into your possession and, therefore, taxable. However, renting the same movie from the same site for a limited period isn’t taxable. In short, you need to pay tax when you buy and download a movie but not when you rent it. 

Friendly warning, if you are a coach that provides educational materials to your clients (digitally), some day soon this may also trigger sales tax, as your state may see your digital product indistinguishable from the services you provide and therefore entirely taxable. For example in Arizona (and other states) photography services are taxable, because they don’t distinguish the difference between the photography services and the tangible (or digital) deliverable. 

As you can see these state by state laws and subtle distinctions can be difficult to navigate if you don’t have a qualified advisor on your side or aren’t using any e-commerce tools. Fortunately, there are various online resources you can consult, including TaxJar, Shopify, and other platforms that will help you navigate and collect sales tax on your digital products. 

So, will there be increased regulation in the coaching industry? 

The answer is YES. Though not specifically for coaching services, we’re seeing increased regulation in the digital economy as a whole, so please take proactive steps to limit your liability so you can focus on the more exciting details of your business

If you have any questions or want to dive more into legal tools and resources, check out our link for AccessiBe and avail of the 10% discount.

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