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What legal documents do I need for my online business?

Updated: Jul 11, 2023

Legal documents for online businesses

Are you running an online business where your customers are individuals (and not businesses)? Then this blog sets out the legal documents you need to consider putting in place on your website to ensure you are compliant with all the distance selling / consumer laws and regulations (of which there are unfortunately many!).

Website Terms and Conditions

First up you need website terms and conditions. There are two types of website terms and conditions – one for the use of your website (often referred to as acceptable use T&Cs) and the other for the actual sale of your goods or services. You can combine these into one set of T&Cs if you don't want legal document fatigue!

Acceptable Use T&Cs: The first set will make it clear to any visitor of your website that the content is yours, that they can’t mis-use your content/website, no viruses can be introduced, who you are are, how to contact you, information about your trade marks (if you have any), and so on.

Sale of Goods/Services T&Cs: The second set governs the actual sale of your goods/services online and will ensure compliance with the online selling laws and regulations. You should include all the usual terms here and anything bespoke which relates to your actual business. For example, if you run a ticketing business then your T&Cs will need slightly different terms to a business that sells online training/courses.

Drafting tips:

1. Draft your T&Cs fairly, clearly and make sure they are well sign posted.

2. For any key terms that may cause an issue with customers you should highlight them

before the point of sale and don’t bury them in amongst all the usual terms. The Courts

refer to this as a the ‘red-hand test’ – if you have something key (like a set cancellation

period) or exclusion of liability, you should sign-post it and make it clear that this term

exists – rather than expect the customer to trawl through the small print to spot it.

3. Don’t forget to include the usual terms in your Website Sales T&Cs, which you must

provide (before the point of purchase) relating to the following:

· Your business name, contact details and address

· A description of your goods and services

· The price (including all taxes)

· How a customer can pay

· Delivery arrangements, costs and how long goods will take to arrive

· The minimum length of their contract and billing period

· Conditions for ending contracts

· How they can cancel and when they lose the right to cancel

· If they will still need to pay reasonable costs for using a service after they cancel

· A standard cancellation form, if they can cancel

· Conditions for money given as a deposit or financial guarantees

· What digital content does (for example, the language it’s in or how to update software)

· The cost of using phone lines or other communications to complete the contract where

it will cost more than the basic rate

Privacy Policy

If you are selling online, you will undoubtedly be collecting personal data about your customers (name, email address, payment details, etc.). Even if you only collect an email address, you will still be collecting personal data. Any business that collects personal data about an individual must be registered with the ICO and be compliant with all the data protection laws. Having a privacy policy in place will get you a large part of the way there to being compliant.

Don’t forget to cover all the following in your privacy policy:

· Who you are and how people can contact you

· Information about what personal data you are collecting

· How you will be collecting the personal data

· How you will be using the personal data

· Justifications for why you need to collect/use the personal data

· Who you will be sharing the data with

· Whether there will be any international transfers of the data (for example, do you use a

CRM that has its servers based in the USA?)

· Are you collecting any sensitive data?

· Data protections rights of individuals

· How to complain to the ICO

Cookie Policy

Your website will be using cookies. UK laws require website operators to tell its website users:

1. What cookies are being used.

2. Explain what the cookies do.

3. Provide information about the reason why the cookies are being used on the website.

You can do all this by having a cookie policy on your website. At the moment, UK laws also require website operators to have a cookie pop-up notice that first-time website visitors must accept to agree to any non-essential cookies used on the website.

If you are not sure what cookies are being used on your website, then you can click on the padlock symbol next to your URL in the address bar, and you should be able to find out what cookies are being used.

Other documents/issues to consider

FAQs – if you have key terms that you want to bring to the attention of your users, then consider the use of FAQs. These are more likely to be read than Terms and Conditions, so it will help with your arguments that you have brought important terms to the attention of customers.

Disclaimers – you may want to include some disclaimers on your website – especially if you have a website that provides advice. Remember any disclaimers should be brought to the attention of users – so have it well signposted.

Refund/Cancellation Policy – sometimes it is good to include these twice – in your website T&Cs and also as a separate document (which is clearly sign-posted and easy to find). It’s an important part of your business and you need to make sure that all customers are aware of what can and cannot be refunded and when!

Protect your IP! Include a copyright legend (©2023 Aubergine Legal) at the foot of your website to tell the world the content on your website is yours. Also if you have registered your brand as a trade mark then include the ® symbol next to where you use your trade mark.

Here to help…

Need any help with your website legals? Then get in touch.


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