Why Does My Website Need Terms of Use and a Privacy Policy?

Terms of Use* for website visitors are actually not mandatory by law, but it makes good business sense to publish them on your website. We answer your questions about why.

What Are Terms of Use on a Website?

They are terms that help indicate to your website visitors the standards you expect of them when they are interacting with your website. For example, you don’t want them downloading harmful viruses or other malware. They also help protect your branding and your website content from copying.

Any business without Terms of Use on their website, and in particular a good intellectual property clause, leaves the door open for people to copy their branding and website content. No one wants to see a copycat business out there, and that should be reason alone to include them.

However, no Terms of Use also means a business has unlimited liability, and a much higher risk of litigation and complaints. It’s definitely wise to ensure your website has some Terms of Use.

Can I use a template Terms of Use on my website?

There are plenty of standard website Terms of Use templates out there, but using a template is not ideal. This is because the Terms of Use you need for your business will depend on the type of business you are running and the type of website you have.

If your website includes professional advice then you will want some rules surrounding how they can or can’t rely on it. If your website has third party apps on it then you will need some rules here too.

Where website visitors can post comments or photos or otherwise engage with your content, your rules should include what you consider acceptable, and what you don’t. For example, are people allowed to swear? What photos will you consider obscene? These rules will help visitors understand what the limits are.

You should also never copy the Terms of Use from another person’s website. Not only is this copyright infringement, it will also be unique to their business not yours, and it will be difficult to get your terms to stand up in a court of law.

Your website needs a Disclaimer too

Your Terms of Use should definitely include a relevant disclaimer in relation to any breaches of those rules. You don’t want to be held liable for anyone’s derogatory, offensive or defamatory posts, or posts that breach third party rights.

Your website might also include a blog where you post various information which could be classed as medical, health, financial, legal or business advice. This information could very easily become outdated, sometimes it may not be complete or sometimes there could be minor errors. The information will also be general in nature, and is likely not to apply to every individuals circumstances. It is risky for people to rely on this information for their own personal needs, without seeking your, or another professional’s advice.

You need rules on your website that cover you where information has become outdated or is erroneous. You also need to state that people cannot rely on the information for their own personal circumstances, and that they should seek professional advice. Then there should be a relevant disclaimer. You certainly don’t want to be held liable for someone relying on the information on your website.

Disclaimers for third party links, apps and software

And you may have various third party links and even third party apps or software on your website. You have no control over the links, the websites that you link to, or any third party apps and software. Sometimes a link may not work, or the software has a virus. Sometimes by having a link to a third party on your website, it looks like you have endorsed them, but they become unreliable or a website visitor has an issue with their products or services. Your website Terms of Use need to include disclaimers for these issues. They should also make sure that any engagement by a website visitor with third parties, where the buy their products or services for example is a contract between them and you are not involved.  

Why you need a Privacy Policy

Whilst some businesses are exempt from complying with the Privacy Laws in Australia** we encourage all small businesses to have a Privacy Policy on their website. Its just good business sense.

Having a privacy policy  builds trust with your website visitors and your clients and customers and also means that disputes are less likely to arise.

A privacy policy lets people know what information you are going to collect, how you collect it and why. The policy should also demonstrate the security and storage you use to keep the information secure and private and how long you keep the data. It should state how users can access their information and how they can update it or have it deleted, and where you might disclose it. These are not hard issues to address.

Some Australian businesses are also subject to European laws in relation to privacy, which can be  much more onerous. Any Australian business that deals with the personal data of EU citizens will need to comply with these laws, called the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR).

If you want to build trust with your customers and clients, you should have both Terms of Use and a Privacy policy on your website.

*Terms of Use are different to Terms and conditions of service. Terms and conditions of service address how you are going to deal with your customers or clients. All businesses should have Terms and Conditions of service with their customers or clients to comply with the Australian Consumer Law.

**Please seek advice as to whether you are exempt from Australian Privacy Laws.  

About Davina Borrow-Jones

Davina Borrow-Jones, The Mumpreneur Laywer

As The Mumpreneur Lawyer, Davina helps Mums setting up businesses, that don’t have any legal knowledge and don’t have their legal position protected.
Contact her at www.mumlawyer.com.au

Leave a Reply