Does your website protect you and your business? You may have a website for your business which is an important tool as you grow and develop. Whether your website is a way in which customers can directly purchase goods and services from your business (e‑commerce), or whether your website is simply an advertising tool and a way that you provide your brand or business with an on-line presence, it is important to have terms and conditions, and a privacy policy which are reflected on your website. It is also vital to refer to the website and terms on all of your email communications and correspondence.

Terms and Conditions

As a start, your website’s terms and conditions should make provision for the protection of any ideas and information that you convey on your website. Such ideas and information may form part of the unique intellectual property that your business provides and which could also be one of your most important assets.

Privacy Policy

Make sure that you clearly reflect the way that your business processes information that it collects from the visitors to your website. You are entitled to collect certain information from the visitors to your website, but you must make sure that you set out clearly the way that you will use that information, and the way, for instance, that your website uses ‘cookies’ to gather information and onto whom you pass that information.

Electronic contracts for purchase of goods and services

If customers are able to purchase goods and services from your website, it is very important to have well drafted terms and conditions for the use of your website for this purpose. The terms of purchase and the way in which customers are allowed to purchase goods and services from your website must be clearly set out. The flow of the process through which the customer is taken when transacting is very important. Just because your customers are not signing on a dotted line with pen and paper, does not mean that they do not have an agreement with you.

Can I simply copy the terms and conditions and privacy policy from another website?

It is not advisable to copy the terms and conditions or privacy policy from another website. Each website is unique, and must provide for the unique offering it makes. In addition, other websites may be governed by law of a country other than South Africa. Your website must take into consideration the services and products that it offers, as well as the customers with whom it wishes to transact. The website flow needs to be correctly integrated with the legal terms that it wishes to incorporate.

Involve your attorney from the start

The best way to proceed with an online presence is to consult with your attorney before you present your offer on line. There are a number of considerations and laws to take into account, and the way in which you develop your product may be impacted by the advice you get from your attorney.