website notices

Website Notices and Disclaimers

2020 and the Coronavirus shutdown has accelerated the migration from brick and mortar storefronts to online eCommerce websites.  This shift to online sales and the accompanying marketing techniques has brought with it the need for new legal documentation like website notices and disclaimers.  

Ecommerce legal disclaimers and notices are an important part of doing business online.  Newly minted owners of eCommerce stores should be aware of what these documents are and instruct experienced legal counsel to draft and review them prior to publishing.

Website Terms of Use

Your website is online software made available to the public, so it is essential that all users of your software enter into an agreement with you that protects you and other users from malicious or inappropriate activity.  You also want to make sure that your website is being used in the way it was intended and not, in a way that violates your intellectual property rights or the privacy of your other users.

A strong website terms of use statement is relevant to your specific business, identifies what constitutes proper use versus abuse of your website, outlines your right to ban or prohibit the use of your website by individual users, establishes legal jurisdiction and is legally binding.  To be legally binding your terms of use should contain nothing so unreasonable or unclear as to make it difficult for the average user to understand or find agreeable. It should also be agreed upon – clearly made prominent enough to be said to have been agreed upon prior to the use of the website by any given user.

Delivery and Returns Policy

Another very important component of delivering goods and services online is the delivery and returns policy.  This should clearly spell out how physical items are sent to customers when ordered, how long customers should expect to wait before receiving the delivered items and what constitutes an item being delivered.  Your delivery and returns policy should have guidance on whether items are damaged in transit are covered by any guarantees and can be replaced. Likewise, a well-thought-out delivery and returns policy should set out rules permitting returns of damaged products under specific circumstances along with how your company will honor returns, whether users pay for return delivery charges and whether your company replaces the item or refunds the transaction in the case of a return. 

Privacy Policy

With California’s Online Privacy Protection Act (OPPA) and European legal frameworks now in place worldwide to govern the way businesses handle client’s data online, every Florida-based online business doing business potentially with these territories should have a privacy policy.  Privacy policies are website legal statements that spell out how a company collects, uses, shares, manages and stores data gleaned from users during those users’ time on the website. The data of most concern is personal information that can be used to identify an individual such as ID, age, gender, marital status, maiden names, addresses, social security numbers etc.  OPPA and other legal frameworks require the prominent display of a privacy policy on a website and this is considered best practice in Florida as well.

“To be legally binding your terms of use should contain nothing so unreasonable or unclear as to make it difficult for the average user to understand or find agreeable.”

Cookies Agreement

The use of cookies, tags, pixels and other data gathering methods are related to privacy issues usually identified in a website’s privacy policy.  It is, however, best practice to obtain a user’s consent before gathering data from them as they visit your site. The wording of your cookies agreement should be determined by the specific data gathering tools you use and should link to your privacy policy.

Accessibility Statement

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 covers certain industries and businesses making them liable for providing “reasonable accommodations” for users who are partially or completely blind, deaf or otherwise physically impaired.  If you are a company affected by the ADA in your physical workplace, then it is wise to make reasonable digital accommodations and outline these in an accessibility statement. A strong accessibility statement identifies where accommodations have been made, recognizes the challenges in making these accommodations 100% effective for all users, invites comments and suggestions to a webmaster and states the legal contact for more serious legal communications about the rights of users to ADA-complaint websites.

The Importance of Counsel

To maximize your users’ experience and avoid unnecessary liability, it is essential that any business documents placed on a public website are made in consultation with an experienced Business and Corporate attorney.  Are you currently or expecting to do business online? If so, contact South Florida Law today on (954) 900-8885 or click here to reach out via our contact form for a free consultation.

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