“Do-It-Yourself” and “Copy & Paste” Cause Problems for Online Businesses: Do the Terms and Policies on Your Business Website Protect You and Your Business?
July 19, 2023
Businesses with websites have to follow the law. Not knowing the law is no defense. Running a business with an online presence that is selling goods and services is subject to various laws and regulations depending on where you are doing business.
Websites are getting easier and easier to do on your own, but not having the correct policies and terms posted on your website can cost business owners money and elevate their business and personal risk. Terms and policies on your business website protect you from the uncertainty that comes from day-to-day customer engagement.
If you have a website, you should not simply copy and paste terms and conditions provided by a website builder or another similar website or provided from a generic set used by your website designer.
Think about it: You launch your new website, and the terms and conditions are provided by an online source or by your website developer. Do you know if those are written for a Mississippi business? A California business? A business selling online only? A business selling food? A business selling paper? Before you know it, a customer has purchased a product or service, and you may have inadvertently agreed to be governed under the law of a state you have never even been to visit. Or worse, you agreed to provide a full cash refund without any proof of a problem? Or maybe those terms said you were liable if someone was injured? You’re confused, your customer is confused, and you now have a business problem that could have been easily avoided if you had only been proactive initially.
The most common thing our small business team sees when we review a business website is that the laws outlined in the terms or policies are written under laws different from the state in which it is doing business. We hear it all the time –
“I just copied from [insert business name] website, and I know they have lawyers in every state, so I figured it covered me.”
“When I did my website, the web designer or web design program I used had standard policies and terms. I used those. I am not a complicated business, so I assumed it was fine for what I needed.”
Website terms and conditions and policies do not have to be complicated. In fact, adding too much can be as problematic as not having tailoring them to your specific business.
Privacy policies are governed under specific state and federal laws. There are things you must include if you are selling in different states.
Website terms and conditions should be more tailored to your particular business. They will include your guarantees about a product or service and your refund and return terms. Different states have different requirement for return policies, so you must be sure to follow the laws of all the states to which you are selling. Recent surveys of customers shopping on the web and social media say that clear terms and conditions show a business is well run and they are more likely to complete a purchase. Simple, clear, and easily accessible are all key.
Writing or reviewing a business's website terms and conditions and policies are not complicated or expensive tasks. A lawyer can spend a couple of hours looking everything over and give you recommendations. This is a place where spending a little may save you a lot of headaches and limit your liability in the future.
GJK can easily assess your needs and help you draft the terms and policies that are best for your online business.
For more information, contact our team at email@example.com.