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How to Protect Your Online Business: Reasons Behind the ‘Terms and Conditions’ and ‘Privacy Policy’ Statements

Legendary Lion Web Design thanks Elitza Nicolaou and Kelsy Gill of Revision Legal for providing this guest post.

When you create a business, whether it’s a ‘bricks and mortar’ storefront, a solely online operation, or a combination of the two, your business will require protection.

When operating a physical storefront, the environment and atmosphere created by the ownership can help a customer understand the conduct that is expected of him. Additionally, staff will likely be available to assist the customer with any questions they may have and to readjust his conduct if he is acting in a way that is inappropriate to the business and its reputation. When a business is based online, the owner doesn’t have this same tangible advantage. Yes, a website can be designed to create a certain atmosphere, but you still need to go one step further.

When an online presence for a business is created, its ‘Terms and Conditions’ and ‘Privacy Policy’ statements are often the only chance to create a contract of use between the business and the third-party viewer/user of its website. A website is one of the biggest forms of communication a business can have with a consumer, coming second—maybe—only to its mailing list.

Terms and Conditions will establish proper ownership rights to the website, and outline ownership over content provided on the website. On a public forum page or a page that allows consumers to post reviews, this can be critical to eliminating potential liability for user comments. This will also be where dispute resolution terms are outlined for users that have an issue with something posted on the website. On an e-commerce site, the Terms and Conditions section can be used to outline payment terms and how a consumer can go about returning the product if they are unsatisfied (if they can return it at all).

Some important components to consider including in a Terms and Conditions page are:

  1. Ownership of the website itself, as well as the content on the website
  2. A description of the services, products and offers available on the website – what is the purpose behind the website
  3. Payment terms, if necessary
  4. Creating and cancelling membership accounts
  5. Age restrictions, if any, for use of the website
  6. Limitations of liability: if the public is allowed to make posts, this should also include ‘safe harbour’ language
  7. Dispute resolution section: if the website attracts consumers outside of your state, a “Choice of Law” clause should be included, outlining which State’s laws will apply
  8. General disclaimers for any important information that doesn’t fit into another category

A Privacy Policy serves a slightly different purpose than a Terms and Conditions page. A Privacy Policy statement provides an opportunity to relay to the consumer any kind of personal information being collected, as well as how that information may be used. This can also include to whom the personal information may be disclosed, and any security measures taken to protect the individual’s private data.

Inclusion of a Privacy Policy can also ensure adherence to state law. Some states require that businesses adequately inform website consumers of an intention to use their personal data for marketing or other uses.

While it may require extra leg work and potentially additional costs, the protection offered by having Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy pages within a website is huge. It’s great to aim for the top and create the most amazing online business possible, but it’s smart to be prepared should the worst happen.

Have any questions regarding the Terms and Conditions or Privacy Policy statements for your website? Call Revision Legal today!