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“Terms & conditions: Is your website in compliance?”

Safe and Sound By Jessica L. Franken

If your company has an online presence, your website should provide visitors to your site with a number of pieces of information. Depending on the type of business and what your website offers, what you may be required to post will vary. So to get started, it is important to understand how your website operates, what services or products may be made available, whether there are interactive areas, what information the site may collect and how you plan to use that information.

Understanding what you need and how to incorporate the appropriate terms into your website can be confusing because of the wide variety of potential uses for a company’s website. We field calls almost every day from our clients asking what they need to do and how to do it as they enhance their online presence.

The following is a quick primer on the most common terms that may appear on a website, with a quick definition:

  • Terms of Use: These are the rules that govern the use of your site by a visitor who may be gathering information, but is not purchasing or receiving services or products through the site. These should appear on every website.
  • Terms of Service: These are the rules to which individuals must agree in order to sign up for your services. Any business that allows people to sign up for and access services through the site needs to post Terms of Service.
  • Privacy Policy: This is a statement that discloses how the business gathers information through the website, and how that data is used, disclosed and managed. Every business needs a Privacy Policy on each of its websites.
  • Terms of Sale: This outlines the terms of purchase for the online sale of a product, and typically includes terms such as warranty, delivery, returns and payment terms. A company selling a product online would need Terms of Sale on its site.
  • Copyright Notice: This notice informs visitors to your site who owns the material on your site, and should appear on every page of your website. Every website should contain a copyright notice to put visitors on notice as to each company that holds a copyright to all or part of the website.
  • Acceptable Use Policy: This is a set of rules the website owner applies to restrict the ways in which visitors can post content to the website and use the network, website or system. Any company that has a chat room or permits any posting on its website should have an Acceptable Use Policy posted. While these are the most common items to include on your website, there can be others. And what’s required of a company is dependent on the type of business they run. It is important to be sure that whatever terms are posted, they are accessible through the pages of your website.

As we begin a new year, many companies are taking a fresh look at their websites—considering redesigns and software updates. Now is the perfect time to be sure you have the right terms in place and that they line up with what’s required of your business.