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Why your website needs legal policies

Creating a website has become easier than ever with the number of tools now available. Websites allow for greater engagement and reach to a wider audience. While the focus is on creating an accessible and easy to use website, people often forget to check whether their website is legally compliant.

Before you start transacting or capturing information from customers, make sure you learn the five reasons why legal policies are a necessity for your website.

1. Permission to sell

Most Australian banks will not even consider opening an account for an e-commerce store owner unless they have a robust refund policy. Under Australian Consumer law, terms of payment, delivery, services, return and refund must be clear to the consumer. Details of a process for customer complaints should also be included. Despite being on a virtual platform, your business is not exempt.

Including these details in a valid ‘Terms and Conditions’ (T&Cs) document or page on your website ensure you are legally compliant

2. Avoiding significant penalties and fines

There may be significant penalties for websites that do not meet minimum legal standards. Where you may be most at risk is surrounding the gathering and use of personal information. To ensure compliance with Australian law, a Privacy Policy should be made clear on the website.

If you are using cookies, it is always good practice to seek permission to give consent even if only for counting visitors or keeping count of a shopping cart. Furthermore, most people overlook the crucial requirement in section 7 of the Terms of Service that any website using the Google Analytics must have a ‘comprehensive privacy policy.’

Ultimately, your Privacy Policy should cover how personal information is collected, what the information will be used for, and how the information is stored and managed.

3. To protect your intellectual property

With the ease of accessing and generating content, it is important to ensure that your work remains yours. Trademarks, designs, technology and copyrights fall into this category and you can go a long way to protecting your intellectual property through the website Terms of Use agreement.

It is good to include terms which state that you own the content on the site unless it is protected or with a licence and most importantly, mention that no intellectual property rights are transferred to the user in the Terms of Use.

4. To limit your own liability

The public nature of the internet means that your website can be accessed by anybody, which exposes your business and website to a number of risks. Your website may include a disclaimer in the Terms of Use to warn visitors that information provided on the site is accurate and to the best of your knowledge. If your site relies on ‘user generated content’ – posts, replies, comments, reviews – you may consider including ‘acceptable use’ terms to protect your website and business if illegal or offensive material is posted.

Terms of Use terms essentially create an agreement between you and the visitor. Consider setting out what activities may constitute a breach of the terms and detail the actions that you are able to take if breach occurs. This may include removing posts, banning individuals from the site or reporting activity to the authorities.

5. Gain a competitive advantage across others

Other organisations often forget the legals. They may forget to include crucial information on the site such as the company name and place of registration, registration numbers and office addresses. Ensuring that your website is compliant means that you achieve a competitive advantage over those who turn a blind eye. It helps you avoid penalties. It means you are accountable and transparent to your audience. It increases your credibility to consumers. Finally and most importantly, it builds trust in your users.

If you have questions or queries creating your T&CS, Terms of Use or Privacy Policy for your website LawPath is here to help. Contact LawPath on 1800 LAWPATH or support@lawpath.com.au

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With the number of Australian small businesses growing, NETT provides a one-stop shop of information to get your business working for you. Crammed full of helpful articles, tips and small business advice, NETT gathers expert advice from Australian small business owners, industry experts and online professionals and houses it all in an easy-to-follow format. Reaching across a wealth of topics from technology to search optimisation and resources. NETT focuses on assisting Australian small business and providing better business advice to allow you to build a strong online presence.