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Legalities: Claims, Disclaimers, Privacy and Terms
July 09, 2017

Two things happened this week that got me thinking about this topic.

First, I read an article concerning the FDA cracking down on a network marketing company in the health and wellness market for making unsubstantiated claims about their products.

Then yesterday, I received an email from Ariix corporate – our annual compliance reminder. Which made me take a look at my own website and see some areas that were questionable. Not deliberately. Just from lack of knowledge.

And it made me stop and think – how many others are building websites and don’t know about the legalities.

Now if you’re lucky enough to be in business with a company like Ariix then you are probably okay. Simply because they do send out an annual update on the laws and a reminder to comply – or they will shut you down.

But I must admit – I am involved in some other businesses and they don’t provide that service.

If you’re doing business – whether online or off – there are some legal details that must be dealt with, including adding the appropriate disclaimers to your website.

For most service providers, that means including three pages: Terms and Conditions, Privacy Policy, and a Disclaimer. Here’s what each does for you.

Terms and Conditions

This page is typically where you will spell out your payment terms, refund policy, and other information about doing business with you. For example, you might say that payment is required in advance, or that refunds on web design work will be pro-rated and not include design time already invested.

You may also want to mention that your content is yours alone, and that it cannot be republished anywhere without written permission. This falls under copyright laws, but it can’t hurt to include it.

Privacy Policy

Your privacy policy is where you’ll mention what you intend to do with the email address you’re collecting (you are building an email list, right? More on that later…), and how you handle confidential information.

Disclaimer

Do you promote products for which you earn a commission? This is where you’ll include a mention of that. In fact, if you sell anything through an affiliate relationship, the FTC requires that notification of that relationship appear on your website somewhere.

Income or Results Claims

If you are promoting your business opportunity on your website, be very careful about making claims concerning income. In general, it’s just best not to do it. If your company publishes an average income statement, like Ariix does, stick with it. Other than that, income claims can get you in trouble fast!

When it comes to making claims about the benefits of using your products, this is tricky territory. NEVER guarantee a specific result from your product. You can be held liable for that if someone doesn’t get those results. Abide by your company guarantees and let them deal with unsatisfied customers.

If you are promoting health and wellness benefits, do not state results for your product that have not been clinically tested and proven. For example, I KNOW that our Puritii Water Filter will remove almost any toxic substance from water. But unless it is specifically listed on the documentation of the clinical testing performed on our filter, I will not state that it will. With all of the incidents concerning contaminated water lately, I have been asked if it will remove specific contaminants. And if it’s not on our list, I simply say I don’t know. It has not been tested for that substance. Sometimes, I have made the sale anyway. Sometimes, not since I wouldn’t make that guarantee. But I would rather lose a sale than have someone use my products to better their health and it didn’t work. That can land you in court! At the very least, it can cause some unhappy – and potentially vocal – customers!

The Right Words

If you’re handy with a phrase, you can probably simply pen your own terms and conditions, privacy policy, and disclaimer pages. Take a look at some other sites, read their legal notices, and then spend a few minutes creating your own. Just be sure to cover all the points above.

If you’re more comfortable with something a bit more formal, though, there are plenty of places online to find templates. Check out:

Free Net Law
SEQ Legal
Legal Zoom

Just to name a few.

Finally, be sure to go back and check your legal pages for continuing validity and accuracy. If you ever run into a dispute with a client over payments, for example, be sure to update your pages to avoid having that same issue in the future. It’s also a good idea to keep up on changing laws, such as the recently enacted cookie law in the UK. Those types of changes definitely require an edit to your legal pages.

If in doubt, consult a lawyer or your company.

Not a lawyer,

Melodieann


Happiness is not something you postpone for the future; it is something you design for the present.

-- Jim Rohn



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