Importance of having the correct policies on your website

By Brabners LLP

10 Jun 2021

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When setting up a business and establishing a new website, it is natural for all of your energy to go into ensuring the content is correct and easily accessible for consumers. This can sometimes lead to important documentation, such as terms and conditions and policies, falling on the backburner.

The mere launch of a website initiates a multitude of legal and procedural hoops that the website owner must comply with. This can be in the form of content regulation, data protection, information to be disclosed or otherwise.

The legal documents set out below are essential for governing the use of a website by visitors. The implementation of such documentation will ensure that your website is effective and legally sound, helping to protect both your business and the website users by limiting liability, ensuring it complies with legal disclosure obligations and with consumer rights, amongst other legislation. 

What documentation do you need?

There are several pieces of legal documentation that we recommend clients have in place for their websites. These include:

Website Terms of Use - details of the website owner/business including contact details, permitted use of the website, links to other policies (such as privacy and cookies policies), disclaimers of liability for content on linked sites and website availability.

Privacy Policy - details of how data is collected, the different types of data and uses for it including how it may be shared, how data is protected together with the customers rights.

Acceptable Use Policy - details of the standards that apply when customers upload content to the website and prohibited uses.

Website Terms and Conditions - necessary where there is a supply of goods and/or services and are particularly important if goods/services are sold directly from your website. Such terms are heavily tailored depending on the type of goods and/or services sold. 

Cookies Policy - information on the types of cookies used, details of the specific cookies used and information on a customer’s preferences.

While the above list is extensive, it is by no means exhaustive therefore it is important to seek advice on how best to protect yourself and your customers before implementing such documents.

Each of the above documents should be easily accessible by website users while covering the main ways that visitors interact with the website and how data is handled. However, the documentation will be tailored to meet the requirements for your website and focus on the areas most applicable to your business.

In addition to being easily accessible, it is important to remember that these documents will typically be accessed and read by the average website user. It is therefore necessary to ensure that the documents are drafted in plain English, avoiding the use of legal jargon, making them easier to understand.

Website Terms of Use v Acceptable Use Policy?

On the face of it, it could be easy to think that website terms of use and the acceptable use policy may cover the same ground. However, the latter seeks to cover much more specific details about features on the website. Typically, the website terms of use will set out your processes, procedures, limit your liability and establish the agreements that you and your customers have agreed to be bound by.

The acceptable use policy forms a much narrower scope than the website terms of use by exclusively governing the use of the platform or service, particularly where the website features a software as a service (SaaS) platform. It forms an agreement between the website and its users and allows you to maintain control over the website allowing the right to terminate abusive users who violate the policy.

Should you have any queries about ensuring that you have the appropriate website legal documentation in place, please contact me or a member of our Commercial Team.

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