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July 4, 2022

Why The Legals On Your Website Are Important

If you have a website for your business, it’s imperative that you publish legal policies and documentation on your site.

The most common legals on a website are:

  • A Privacy Policy
  • Terms and Conditions

These outline your company policies, provide your customers with peace-of-mind and most importantly, they protect your business from a legal standpoint.

Don’t be put off by how ‘official’ the legals sound.  They won’t have a negative impact on your carefully cultivated brand personality, nor will they deter customers from buying from you.  On the contrary.  Whether you’re running a small online store or managing a global empire, your customers need reassurance about transacting on your website and so when they see comprehensive legals, they’re likely to feel more comfortable about their interaction.

What is a Privacy Policy and why is it important?

Data privacy is a hot topic.  When someone transacts online or signs up for a mailing list, they hand over lots of personal information – like where they live and their bank details.  Understandably, people need reassurance that their data is safe and secure.

But it’s more than that.  As a website or app owner, you actually have specific legal obligations around the collection and storage of customer information and your customers need to know what measures you have in place to protect their details.  These measures include things like an SSL certificate and the use of encrypted data.

A Privacy Policy (also sometimes called a Privacy Notice or Privacy Statement) is a legal document, and it must meet the requirements of the Australian Privacy Act.

Questions to ask when formulating your Privacy Policy:

  • What information do you collect from customers? This could include things like their name, address, date of birth, email address and credit card information
  • Do your payment mechanisms provide appropriate security?
  • Where is this information stored?
  • What do you use this information for? For example, is it for payment only or do you collect information for marketing or research purposes?
  • Are your authentication methods appropriate?
  • Do you share customer information with anyone else, eg a courier service or payment gateway?
  • Are you providing your customers with sufficient information for them to make an informed risk assessment?
  • Are transactions on your website subject to any specific laws or jurisdictions?
  • Have you provided contact details in case a customer wants to get in touch with your business about the Privacy Policy?

Top tip: Place a link to your Privacy Policy in a visible place on your website, eg in the footer of every page of your site.

What is a Terms & Conditions Policy and why is it important?

A T&C policy is basically a contract between you and the person or entity using your website or app.

This document is important because it covers the operation of your business sales (assuming you sell products online) and it protects you if a legal issue arises.  For example, if someone tries to sue you because your website contained an error, you would be protected provided your T&C Policy was worded correctly.

The policy should include information on billing and payment processes, product guarantees, returns and refunds, cancellation policies or termination of agreements, copyright and intellectual property (IP) and the process for handling disputes.  Depending on the nature of the goods or services you sell, the policy could also set out what the customer can expect from your offering.

Your T&Cs policy essentially establishes the rules for visitors interacting with your website or app and should include what users can and can’t do on your website, information on copyright plus a disclaimer to limit your liability.

Top Tip: A T&C policy should be comprehensive yet easily understandable.  As with the Privacy Policy, it’s a good idea to have the link to the T&Cs page at the bottom of page one of your website or in the footer on each page.

Is it a legal requirement to have a Privacy Policy and a T&C Policy on a website?

While there’s no legal obligation to have these policies on your website, the importance of them cannot be overemphasised.  They will protect you from legal issues and they play a key role in establishing customer confidence and trust with Google.

In summary

It’s a good idea to get legal advice on your policies so that you have peace-of-mind that all bases have been covered.  While these documents are not required by law, they are a must-have on every website or app where customers transact or interact.  If you are looking for help with your legal documents, why not contact one of the small business lawyers on the Digital Mums Directory.

Keen to learn more?  Visit The SEO School to see how you can take charge of your website content and online visibility.

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