Financing & Legal

Licensing Requirements for E-Retailers

For regulatory purposes, Internet content in Singapore is considered to be broadcast media content and therefore it falls under the purview of the Singapore Broadcasting Authority (SBA). Under the Singapore Broadcasting Authority (SBA) Act, all licensable broadcasting services, including computer online services provided by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and Internet Content Providers (ICPs) must be licensed. Certain persons are considered to be automatically licensed i.e. “class licensees” without the need for them to make a separate license application. This includes ecommerce website owners. Furthermore, Internet Content Providers (ICPs) are required to register with the Singapore Broadcasting Authority (SBA) if their website promotes political or religious causes or if they sell online newspapers in Singapore.

Regulation of Internet Content

All class licensees, including e-merchants, are legally bound to comply with the Internet Code of Practice that prohibits the broadcast of materials that are considered objectionable on grounds of public morality, public order, public interest and public security or materials that are otherwise prohibited under Singapore law. How about ICPs that are located outside Singapore and are therefore providing content from outside Singapore but are accessible by users in Singapore over the Internet? Are these ICPs regulated by the class license scheme and are they bound by the Internet Code of Practice? The answer is that the SBA does not claim to have an extra-territorial jurisdiction over content providers that are not based in Singapore. In other words, the class licensing scheme and Internet Code of Practice is limited to only local ICPs. Therefore, if your servers are located outside Singapore, you are not covered by SBA.

Regulation of Online Business Activities

Depending on the type of products or services that you are offering online, you might be subject to the rules and regulations that currently apply to the physical provision of those goods and services. Some examples include the following:

E-retailing of second hand goods

E-merchants selling second hand goods online will be covered by the Second Hand Dealers Act, which mandates that every person dealing in secondhand goods (with certain exceptions as listed under Schedule 2 of the Act) be licensed by the Deputy Commissioner of Police. These regulations are designed to prevent the sale of stolen goods. Online promotional activities: Depending upon the type of promotional activity that a website operator conducts, (s)he may be required to comply with the provisions set out in the Common Gaming Housing Act and the Public Entertainment Act.

Web advertising

The web advertisement of certain products such as medicines, alcohol, and even financial services and products should not breach any statutory marketing restrictions or advertisement regulations that may be applicable to that particular product. Furthermore, online ads must generally comply with a) the Singapore Code of Advertising Practice and b) advertising guidelines issued by the Singapore Broadcasting Authority (where applicable). As regards spamming, although there is no specific legislation in Singapore, spammers may be liable to prosecution under the Computer Misuse Act. In addition, as a website operator you must also be aware of the Consumer Protection (Trade Descriptions and Safety Requirements) Act that prohibits misdescriptions and prescribes certain specific requirements relating to any trade description of goods sold in Singapore. 

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