THE BLOG

Protecting Your Online Business Presence

07/01/2014 02:42 pm ET | Updated Aug 31, 2014

You are finally living your dream, running your own businesses, being a change-maker, doing what you love.

In this digital age, more business owners are solely operating their businesses online. And why wouldn't we? Larger audience, less expenses, we can work at home in our PJ's... it's really a no brainer. Nothing can stop you... well, except maybe the IRS... or an unhappy customer. That does not sound sexy or fun.

What many online business owners do not realize is that there are legal requirements for having an online presence. The two most common documents needed are "Terms & Conditions" and a "Privacy Policy."

I'm sure we have all seen or heard these phrases, but what exactly do they mean?

Terms & Conditions:

Have you ever purchased a song in iTunes and a little box popped up that you had to "check" before moving on to the purchase? That is Apple's way of putting you on notice as to what their terms for the purchase are. On most websites, if you scroll down to the bottom of the homepage, there will be a link that may say "Terms of Service," or "Terms Policy" -- this is their form of T&C. T&C on your site act as a metaphorical contract between your business and the site visitor. Depending on the type of business you have, terms can vary, but the essence is that the terms can help to protect your company from potential legal action by visitors to your website. Here, you will provide the governing law of your site/your company, provide limitations of liabilities, warranties for the goods or services, delivery terms/return policies, intellectual property information (such as all some of the content on the website belongs exclusively to your company), etc.

Now I'm sure you're thinking -- great, I'll just use someone else's T&C and make a few changes and put it on my site -- easy, free... wrong! This is actually copyright infringement. We definitely don't like copycats!

Privacy Policy:

Do you have a newsletter or other service where you collect people's email? Then you must have a privacy policy. Basically, the privacy policy discloses how your site will use and store the personal information provided (name, email, credit card, etc.).

Your privacy policy should promise the visitor that any and all information shared with your business will remain private and not shared with any other third parties other than "trusted third parties", such as your newsletter provider, your distributor, etc. There are various state and federal laws that have specific rules on privacy policies -- but as the Internet is literally the World Wide Web, visitors from all over the world and more likely, the United States, could potentially be visiting your site opening you up to the liability of that state -- California is one of the strictest in terms of having a conspicuous privacy policy on your site.

A lot of legal mumbo-jumbo, I know. Plain and simple -- protect your ass(ets) and get yourself these two documents.

With Love and Legal-Ease,

Genavieve

*This is for legal information purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Genavieve Shingle is only licensed to practice law in the State of New York