When I advise a client that they should have them in place and offer my help in preparing them, their first reaction is often “No, don’t worry, I’ll copy them off someone else’s website”
Reason 1 – they help you comply with the law
The UK is the world leader in ecommerce according to Google boss, Eric Schmidt and this can, at least in part, be put down to the trust we have in the online traders we do business with. This trust comes from the laws that have been passed to protect consumers’ personal and financial details and ensure they have the ability to enforce their legal rights when making purchases online.
If you use a web form, for example, to collect names and email addresses of people who visit your site and opt-in for your updates, you’re collecting personal data. You must, therefore, comply with the Data Protection Act 1998. If you don’t, you risk being sued by visitors to your website, or fined by the Information Commissioner.
Many of my clients don’t take this risk seriously, but there’s an event greater reason for them to comply. If they don’t comply with their legal obligations, they risk having their Facebook or Google accounts shut down or being blacklisted by their CRM provider for failing to comply with their terms of service.
If this happens, they can no longer advertise or send out broadcast emails, which would be disastrous for their business!
Reason 2 – they protect you from being sued
If you provide advice on your website, perhaps through a blog, it can’t be specific to an individual and it’s unlikely to be as comprehensive as the advice you would give face to face in a meeting.
It can also become out of date or it might only be relevant to a particular location (for example everything I write is based on English law)
If someone takes your advice, acts on it and claims it was wrong, they may try to sue you for any losses they incur.
“The content on our site is provided for general information only. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content on our site.
Although we make reasonable efforts to update the information on our site, we make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content on our site is accurate, complete or up-to-date.”
This is usually combined with a limitation of liability clause so if someone does try to sue you, the amount they can claim is limited to an amount you specify.
Reason 3 – they protect your intellectual property rights
You website will be full of intellectual property, making it one of your most valuable assets. Your brand will be protected by trade marks (registered or unregistered), the content will be protected by copyright and the whole website may be protected as a database right.
Therefore, you must protect it or you risk losing it!
If someone copies part of your website or content without permission, you will no doubt want the option to sue them and claim compensation. However, a fact that many people are unaware of is that if you don’t have clear intellectual property notices on your website, you’re unlikely to be able to claim any compensation!
Reason 4 – they enable you to control visitors to your website
For example, you can set the rules about how your content is distributed. Therefore, if you’re happy for your blog to be shared so long as you’re given credit and a back link to your website, you can specify this.
If you allow visitor to upload their own content or to comment on your blog, you must have an acceptable use policy that allows you to moderate this, and ban users who post anything inappropriate.
If there’s a members only area you can set the rules about who can join and prevent unauthorised sharing of login information.
So, are you still going to rely on a stranger to ensure you comply with the law, prevent you from being sued, protect your most valuable assets and control the visitors to your website?
If you would like more information about how we can help your business thrive in the online world, please feel free to get in touch on a no obligation basis.