Essential Website Policies

Most businesses these days have a website. Some of them have several different pages, and some are very simple with just two or three pages. Whatever type of website you have, there are some essential policies that you should include.

Why would you have policies on your website?

Everyone is more savvy about handing out their credit card details or even giving out their email addresses. So, when they land on your website pages, they need to know that your site is safe and that you make them feel safe. If they know that any data they give you is safe, for example, they are more likely to trust you. And trust inevitably leads to loyalty…and loyalty to purchases.

Some of the policies are not only essential, they are a legal requirement, with the right kind of legal language.

So what policies should you have on your website?  

Depending on what your business is, whether you sell products or offer services, will determine the kind of policies you need.

First of all, let’s look at the absolute legal stuff – what you MUST have on your website.

Privacy Policy

Every business should have a privacy policy on their website, which details how you keep your customers’ information safe and secure, and how your business complies with the latest GDPR (General Data Protection Regulations).

Your Privacy Policy tells your customers what personal information you collect from them; why you need to collect it and what you do with it.

Both the UK and the EU, follow rules set out by the GDPR, the General Data Protection Regulations that became law in May 2018. Any time your business takes personal information from a customer or potential customer, they need to be pointed to your Privacy Policy. According to the GDPR, your Privacy Policy (or Privacy Notice as some people prefer to call it), must:

  • Be concise, transparent, intelligible and easily accessible
  • Be written in clear and plain language, especially if any information is addressed specifically to a child
  • Be delivered in a timely manner
  • Be provided free of charge

Here’s a quick checklist of what you will need. Please note, however, that you should always check out the relevant government advice, depending on what kind of business you are. Generally, you need to include:

  • An explanation of the information you collect and what it is used for. For example, if you have an opt-in form on your website, to get people to subscribe to your email, you will be collecting email addresses.
  • Details of how people can get access to the data you hold on them and how they can change any details you have previously collected. If you use opt-in forms, you need to provide information on how to unsubscribe at any time.
  • Details of how you will notify visitors of any changes in your Privacy Policy
  • A statement about age restrictions – usually this involves restricting the site to individuals who are either 13 and older, or 18 or older.
  • How you share any information you collect. For example, you might use email marketing software or payment software from a third party – this is sharing your customers’ information. So they need to be aware of this.

There are loads of rules and regulations which I can’t cover in this blog post, but you should check out your country’s rules and regulations to ensure that you comply.

UK ADDRESS 

EU ADDRESS 

Can I just copy a Privacy Policy from someone else’s website?

You can, but it’s not a good idea. There could be legal consequences of copying another website’s Privacy Policy and Terms and Conditions, as they are not likely to cover what you need for your business. Every business is different. Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policies are copyright protected, so unless you have express permission to use and adapt someone else’s policies, I would steer well clear.

Where do I put my Privacy Policy?

Generally, a link to your Privacy Policy is situated in the footer of your website – usually alongside similar policies on Cookies, Terms and Conditions and contact details. This makes it clearly visible to any visitors who want to know how their personal data will be used.

Terms and Conditions

Terms and Conditions are basically what it says on the tin…it’s the terms and condition, or contract, that you make with any visitors to your website. It sets out what you expect from them and what they can expect from you…in other words, to record what you agree with your customers.

They set out business procedures, limit your liability and protect your business and your rights.  

Why do you need terms and conditions?

Terms and Conditions can save you a whole lot of hassle further down the line, especially if your visitors become customers. If you have these in place, and point every customer to them when they order from you, they can save you from any disputes coming from the use of, or purchases from, you site.

What should your terms and conditions contain?

Your Terms and Conditions can contain whatever you think you should include, or want to include. However, here are a few basic ideas that I always ensure are included.  

  • Make it clear exactly what you are selling
  • Your products or services should be described in detail – you can put a link to a PDF or catalogue, or a link to your website product or services pages
  • It’s impossible to state a set price as this can vary, but worth mentioning your general pricing for your products, with a link to your current price list, stating that you reserve the right to change your prices from time to time – maybe state that you raise your prices every April, for example
  • If you’re a services business, a link can be included to a page where you show fixed price contracts, your cost per hour, or however you operate. Again, you should include that you reserve the right to change your prices from time to time – maybe state that you raise your prices every April, for example
  • Don’t use sales talk or make promises, such as ‘we will reply to any enquiries within 24 hours’…unless that is a set policy and you can deliver
  • You can use this page to talk about shipping, delivery, risk and insurance. Don’t generalise on this – make sure it is what you’re going to do. Some people have a separate shipping policy, which is a good idea if you sell physical products.
  • Returns and refunds – what are your policies around returns and refunds? Again, some people prefer to have a separate returns and refunds policy – this is a good idea if you sell physical products.

Termination

Some contracts will be over with almost as soon as they’re made – if you sell products, they are paid for up front, posted, received and customer is happy.

Other contracts might be ongoing and need renewal, so it would be worth including something around this. You might want to consider the following:

  • How long will your contract last?
  • Why would it terminate? Cover a natural termination – simply come to the end of a contract. It might be because your customer is not happy about some aspect of your work.
  • What happens to any services not completed, especially if they are paid for up front?
  • Do you want to impose a penalty if your customer terminates the contract early?
  • If you’re going to lose money because of a contract termination, how are you going to prove what you’ve lost?
  • If you are creating software, a game, or a bespoke item, who will it belong to if the contract is terminated early? This needs to be clear on your website and on any sales material relating to this kind of product/service.

Product or Service Liability

Think about what will happen if you have to pay your customer for either products or services that fail. For example…

  • What will happen if you don’t provide good or services you advertised?
  • What if something you sell if faulty?
  • What kind of fault is a good enough reason for the good to be returned?
  • What if your customer thinks your services are inadequate, or you don’t provide what they thought you would?

Protect yourself from clients

You need to make sure that, as well as protecting your clients, that you also protect yourself and your business. If you write something for a client, for example, who owns the copyright? Generally, once it is completed, it belongs to your client, for example if you are a ghost writer of a book.

If you do this kind of work, it would be worth including a confidentiality clause, detailing ownership of intellectual property.

If there is a problem

It’s worth putting something in your terms and conditions to set out how you resolve any problems. This might be a simple statement just saying that ‘if there are any problems with my products or services, please contact me by email in the first instance. I will do my best to work with you to resolve any problems you might have.’

ALWAYS DO YOUR OWN TERMS AND CONDITIONS – DO NOT COPY ANYONE ELSE’S. No two businesses are exactly the same, there are certain rules and regulations in some countries, which may differ from where you live, so always worth checking out your country’s government website for guidance.  

Finally, your clients must agree to your terms and conditions to be bound by them. So, if you do a contract, make sure you get your client to sign the contract that states they have read, understood and agree to your terms and conditions.

Refund Policy

A refund policy can be part of your terms and conditions. But, if you sell products, I think it’s more important to have this on your website as a separate policy…or do both!

Refunds are sadly, a part of life and there will be a time when a customer receives your product or service, doesn’t like it and want a refund. So it’s really important to make it absolutely clear what is and what is not acceptable to you.

Most refund policies state that a refund will be made if the goods received are faulty or damaged.  

You don’t have to offer refunds – if you don’t, that’s fine, but you need to make it crystal clear in your refunds policy.

Please note: If you live in the EU, it is mandatory to offer a refund, so you don’t have a choice!

Things to think about…

  • Do you have a time limit on returns?
  • What condition does the product need to be in for a return to be accepted?
  • Who pays for the return shipping?
  • What if your product arrives in a damaged state? Or doesn’t arrive at all?
  • What if your product does not live up to its advertising and a customer is disappointed with quality?
  • How long does it take you to process a return?
  • If you decide that a return is acceptable, how long before your customer gets their money back?

Copyright Notice

The Copyright Notice tells visitors to your website that all the content is legally yours. They do not have the right to use it or reproduce it without your expressed permission.

This notice should include:

  • The copyright symbol
  • The year you created your site
  • The name of the copyright holder – most likely you or your business

If you are happy for visitors to use certain aspects of your material, you need to ensure this is stated very clearly. If you do this, it’s worth making it clear that you still maintain ownership of the material at all times.  

Cookie Policy

Cookies are small text files that your browser downloads and stores on your device. It is anonymous data and is stored separately from any personal information that people provide, so it is impossible to connect it to any particular person. Cookies are used to improve your website and services. 

You need to:

  • Give clear and comprehensive information about the purposes for which cookies are stored and accessed
  • Get visitors to give consent to cookies being used, usually in the form of a pop-up banner
  • Give details of all cookies used and purpose for which they are used – your website provider will have these details available online for you to use

Conclusion

There are lots of different policies you can use, but the essential policies that you legally need to have on your website are:

  • Privacy Policy
  • Terms and Conditions
  • Cookie Policy

I also like to include a Copyright Policy. If you sell any kind of products, it’s a good idea to also have a Shipping Policy and Refund & Returns Policy.

Please always check out your country’s government website, as that will advise you what is legally required for your business. Please note that I am not a lawyer. The information in this article is absolutely not legal advice and I cannot be held responsible for its accuracy.

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