Documents needed for a legally-compliant website

Which documents do you need to make sure that your new website is legally compliant?

The comprehensive answer to that question will depend upon your business, the industry you operate in, and the geographical location of your business. But as a minimum, your website will need:

  • Website Terms & Conditions
  • Privacy Policy
  • Cookies policy

In addition, you may also need to include a shipping, returns and refund policy if you’re selling goods from your site.

Let’s have a look at what each of those documents should cover.

Website Terms and Conditions / Terms of use

Your website terms and conditions, or your ‘terms of use’ are the guidelines for using your site. Anyone who visits your website automatically accepts your terms of use and agrees to abide by them.

Your terms will cover issues like:

  • Access to your site: explaining that you are not liable to your users for downtime
  • IP rights: you own the IP rights in the site and all the material published on it and others cannot use it without a licence.
  • Cookies: explain that your site uses cookies and direct users to your privacy policy
  • Anti-hacking: users may not misuse the site by knowingly introducing viruses or other malicious technology.
  • Linking to the site: permission for users to link to the site, but only in a way that does not damage your reputation
  • Links from the site: you do not take responsibility for the content of third party sites that you link to.
  • Your liability: limiting your liability for material displayed on your site
  • Indemnity: any visitors who breach the terms will indemnify you against the costs arising out of that breach

The reason it’s important to have this policy is to protect you from the risks of people misusing your site. It means that you will be able to bring legal action against somebody who breaches the terms of your website, and recover any financial losses you suffered as a result of what they did.

Privacy Policy

Your privacy policy explains how you will collect, store and use any personal information that visitors provide to you via the website.

You can also extend the privacy policy to cover how you use any personal information collected via email, networking or information provided by third parties.

You must have a privacy policy so that you comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (Regulation (EU) 2016/670) (GDPR), the Data Protection Act 2018, and the UK legislation know as the UK GDPR.

Your privacy policy covers:

  • Which information you collect from users
  • A nod to your cookie policy
  • How you use information provided to you
  • How you process information
  • How you share information with third parties
  • Storing and retaining personal data
  • How users can withdraw their consent
  • How users can find out which information you hold about them, and how they can exercise their rights in respect of that information

Cookie Policy

Your cookie policy explains how you use cookies and how your users can manage cookies. Explain in your policy which types of cookies you use and explain how users can amend their preferences.

You should provide a pop up when a user first visits your site, so that they may opt in and out of specific cookies.

Policy on shipping, returns, or refunds

If you run an ecommerce business, you should include on your website a policy that governs the process for shipping, returns and refunds.

This usually ends up as quite a complex document, covering all the risks around selling and returning goods. That includes;

  • who is responsible for delays, or damage in transition
  • the limits of any liability
  • if and how either party can terminate the agreement
  • who pays taxes or fees
  • any time limits within which your customer must return the goods.

How to draft these documents

You may be able to source some of these documents yourself by using online software to generate them for you, or getting ‘inspiration’ from a competitor’s site.

The problem with either of those options is that you leave your business exposed to risk. The purpose of these documents is to protect you against the risk of misuse, or non-compliance, both of which could have financial and reputational implications for your business. If the documents aren’t drafted with your specific business in mind, they are likely to contain holes in your protection, that could cost you later down the line.

When you get these documents drafted by a solicitor, then you have the advantage of their expertise, and the added protection that they will take the blame if the documents are incorrect and you suffer a loss.

You have far more protection with documents drafted by a legal professional, who has taken the time to understand your business and your website. A solicitor will meticulously cover the specific risks in your business, and give you the most robust documents to protect your business.

If you’d like a solicitor at SME Comply to draft these documents for you, please do get in touch.

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