Many people think that websites don't need to abide by the same rules as normal business or organisations. This is not the case, there are many 'standards' that should be on every website, and it is a good idea to always look out for them before you decide to buy something from a website, believe what is written on a website, or use the information on a website.
Business wise, my number one rule is 'transparency':
- 1. Every website should always have a page that says clearly who runs the site. Nothing annoys me more than the sites that 'mimic' legitimate sites, or by their look and what they say, pretend to be other then what they are.
- 2. The contact page or footer should always have their ABN or the full name of the entity that owns the site, or the likes of a BSB if you are builder, Licence number if you are Travel company etc...
- 3. A charity or organisation should always have their ABN as well as a "Collections Act Number" if they are requesting donations
- 4. If you are a sole trader with a hobby business and don't require an ABN then you should state that.
- 5. Just like a normal business if you are selling a product it should always state if it includes or excludes GST.
- 6. This is not law, but my personal preference on the 'dodgy radar', every site should have a 'phone number'. I know it is popular to have website be totally phone-free, and the favourite hype-line from many 'so-called' web experts is "have your business making money while you sleep", but, I feel more secure if I can see a phone number that I can call if I have a query, or at least I have the security that I can contact someone if I am not happy with what I purchased.
- 7. NEVER purchase something via a website that does not have a 'secure' purchasing facility. Depending on the browser you use, they will normally have a little keylock icon on the bottom or the top of the screen that will let you know that you are on a secure page. If in doubt at all, just don't do it!
The ACCC has a good site called 'SCAM watch' (www.scamwatch.gov.au) so that is a good one to visit on a regular basis.
Domain type indicators:
There are all sorts of domain names now, and as rules have changed over the years, they are not necessarily what they seem...
When dealing with Australian companies or organisations, the Australian domain names are really the best to trust as not just any Joe can buy them, they need to have 'proof' they are who they say they are:
Australian Domain Names
.com.au - The .au denotes Australia, commercial purposes, in most cases if it is a .com.au (particularly in recent years) that is pretty legit, as you need to have a business registered and a 'reason' to purchase that name.
.org.au - For non-commercial organisations, charities, sports clubs, basically non-profit, can be trusted as you again, you need verification of a non profit status to get one.
.asn.au - This is the one that should be used by incorporated associations, politicians, special interest groups and the likes.
.id.au - This is for Australian Citizens and residents, not used a lot, though is great if you want to register your own name in this country and have a personal website
.gov.au - Obviously this is a Government site, and only Governments can purchase it, so if you trust the government you can trust the site LOL! In all seriousness, a .gov.au site is as legit as you can get.
.net.au - pretty much the same as a .com.au though doesn't quite have the same status, see .net below...
.com - This is the most common form of domain type in the world, a site with this could be from absolutely any country, though most often is the United States, so the information may not be relevant to you in Australia, or you may not be protected by law if you are purchasing products as it is not an Australian company...
.net - Basically the same as .com... Folklore has it that .net was originally supposed to be for Tech companies, though now it is really just used because you can't get the name you want on a .com or .com.au
.org - This should only be for Non Profit organisations or like minded community groups (Associations, medical etc.), unfortunately over the years there has not been a lot of adherance to this, so it can not always be assumed that a .org site is a non-commercial entity.
.info - Cheap domain name, often used for small sites focussing on a information only
.biz - Another cheap domain name, can be legit, but really does not have the same status as a .com.au at all.
.co - A very new entrant to the market partially established due to the lack of available .com domain names.
There are also the likes of .co.nz (New Zealand), .co.uk (United Kingdom), .cn (China) etc., as most countries will have a form at the end of a domain name that denotes what country that business or organisation is based in.
More types of domain names are always being added to the Internet, if you are purchasing a domain name, always consult with a professional IT Consultant or go directly to the big players in this market who have been around for a long time like Net Registry or Melbourne IT.
If you have any other good ideas or tips for how to spot a dodgy website, just let us know and we can add them to the list, email us on email@example.com with your advice to help others :)
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