Why legal policies are a must for your website


Latest retail estimates predict that Australia’s online retail sales will rise by more than 14% in 2015, hitting upwards of $10 billion. And while the eCommerce boom shows no signs of slowing down, it’s important that businesses understand the importance of a legal infrastructure behind their website.

After spending hours and hours on creating your product and website, the last thing you want is a lawsuit or a knock on the door from the Government.. In order to avoid potential legal and commercial disputes, it is absolutely crucial to create legal policies that are relevant to your website. By following these steps you’ll go a long way to ensuring that your website is legally compliant and protected. Follow the steps below to ensure your website is legally compliant and protected under Australian law.

Step 1: Create a Privacy Policy

The most common question we get asked from business owners is whether they need a Privacy Policy for their website. We tell them it’s pretty simple to figure out: If your website gathers any sort of personal data (such as email addresses) then a Privacy Policy is a no-brainer.

A Privacy Policy is an ideal first step to getting your website legally compliant, and deals with points such as how personal information is collected, what it is used for and how it is stored and managed.

It’s crucial that any website using Google Analytics for web measurement (there’s over 10 million out there) has a robust, local Privacy Policy, particularly if you use Google Analytics Advertising Features. By enabling the Advertising Features, you enable Google Analytics to collect data about your website traffic via Google advertising cookies and anonymous identifiers, in addition to data collected through a standard Google Analytics implementation. Google explicitly states in its terms of use that if you’ve enabled any Google Analytics Display features then you must notify your visitors of this in your privacy policy.

Step 2: Create Website Terms and Conditions

Under Australian Consumer law, you are required to have Terms and Conditions on your website if you sell with goods or services. Website Terms and Conditions are needed for every goods or services website as they explain to consumers their rights when purchasing. A well drafted Website Terms and Conditions will deal with issues such as returns and refunds, consumer guarantees, deliveries, disclaimers and competitors. They will also cover have the effect of limiting liability for any information and material that may be on your site.

Step 3: Create Terms of Use

Website owners need to understand that Terms and Conditions are different from Terms of Use. Often overlooked by webmasters, Terms of Use are crucial for any website. With advancements in technology, it is the Terms of Use that allows the creator or owner to lay down the rules for people visiting the website as well as providing protection of intellectual property (their work and ideas) on the website. It also details what users can and cannot do on the site and details what actions the website owner can take if users do not comply.

Step 4: Create Marketing Policies

Marketing is no longer solely left to Word of Mouth, and we’re all constantly looking at new ways we can seamlessly reach our target audience. However as digital marketing becomes an irresistible option, it’s important that you’re aware of the relevant legal obligations, specifically surrounding email marketing.

Before sending a marketing email or SMS to your customers make sure:

  1. you have consent from the people you are sending messages: Usually business provide an option regarding this when capturing personal details
  2. there is an option to unsubscribe
  3. identify your business with details that are accurate over the next 30 days

We highly recommend businesses also include a disclaimer when sending marketing emails. This keeps your communications safe and secure. It ensures that the email is to be read only by the recipient, contains a disclaimer for ‘opinions’ and also email errors.

Step 5: PCI Compliance

If your business processes credit card payments, it is guaranteed that PCI Compliance will be applicable to your business. PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) is a set of requirements that must be followed by all companies and merchants when accepting payment from customers via credit or debit card. Business owners or operators are expected to comply if they accept, process, transmit or store cardholder data taken online. PCI compliance shows customers that their information is protected and this compliance is expected of all Australian business, irrespective of size. There are two options of becoming PCI compliant: Businesses can choose to make their equipment, systems and staff PCI compliant or they can outsource the handling of credit card numbers to a payment provider that is PCI compliant.

Step 6: Refund Policy

Online businesses are not exempt from making customer’s rights apparent. Under the Australian Consumer Law, terms of payment, delivery, services, return and refund policies must be made clear to the consumer. These essential details should be provided on the ‘Terms and Conditions’ page on your website to ensure legal compliance and account eligibility with most Australian banks.

It is also a wise idea to have an option for customer feedback and complaints on your website, this can be helpful for customer interaction and allow issues to be resolved before legal action is sought.

Step 7: Complying with ACCC

Businesses must guarantee products and services they sell, hire or lease for under $40,000 and those normally bought for personal or household use over $40,000, despite any warranties they give or sell to you. If businesses fail to deliver on any guarantees including warranties offered, rights to repair, replacements and refunds, cancelling a service and compensation for damages and loss, a consumer can use their rights under the Australian Consumer Law for automatic protection.

Conclusion

Creating necessary legal foundations for your website is important to avoid potential legal and commercial disputes. Having these legal policies in place, in addition to relevant compliance reaffirms the suitability of your website, protecting the consumer ,your product and the website you’ve taken time to perfect.

——————————-

About the Author:

Written by Dominic Woolrych, the Legal Product Manager of LawPath, Australia’s fastest growing online legal service.