Designing Your Business Website – Don’t Forget Legal Issues

Legal errors may lead to lawsuits, which can cost a company money and its ethical reputation. Below are some of the common online legal mistakes businesses should be on the lookout for.

Having an online presence for your business is critical in today’s advanced technological world. In his article published on Plorez Lab on July 23, Chirag Dodiya warns companies of common mistakes they make when creating and maintaining an online presence. He points to key actions that may make a business appear ignorant, careless, or un-knowledgeable and could, therefore, hinder its customer base. Dodiya discusses some common but important online mistakes for businesses to be aware of, there is another set of online mistakes that needs to be brought to businesses attention, as well: legal mistakes.

Legal errors may lead to lawsuits, which can cost a company money and its ethical reputation. Below are some of the online legal mistakes businesses should be on the lookout for:

  1. No Terms of Use Agreement. A good, valid terms of use agreement should set forth the terms and conditions for the people using the website. It should include the following: (i) Appropriate disclaimers on warranties; (ii) Limits on the liability of the site owner, employees, officers, directors, affiliates; (iii) Limits where lawsuits may be filed or that it precludes lawsuits all together in favor or arbitration.No Privacy Policy- A good privacy policy should set forth the terms and conditions of what the company will do with the personal data collected from users and customers. For example, the policy should address how much data is stored, whether or not any data is sold, and what the relationship in data sharing with third parties entails if there is any. Importantly, it should address how information involving children is addressed to comply with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998.
  2. Domain Name Issues. Be sure to take the time to determine whether or not your domain name has any trademark issues before investing time and money into the site. Trademark infringement can be costly. While a full discussion about trademark infringement is always worthwhile, it generally happens when your business’ mark is likely to cause confusion among customers as to the source of the goods or services. To determine whether or not your business’ proposed domain name is likely to result in trademark infringement you can do one of the following. If you are serious about having a successful e-commerce business, then it is worth investing in talking with an internet attorney about trademark infringement and domain issues. In anticipation of that discussion, however, you can conduct preliminary domain name due diligence by searching the proposed domain name in Google or other search engines to see if any businesses come up. Also, it is recommended to conduct a search of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office site for federal trademark registrations.
  3. Advertising Violations. By far, advertising violations have become a significant regulatory and litigation concern for social media and websites. In addition to state laws affecting both, website or social media advertising must comply with the Federal Trade Commission Act. Under Section 5 of the Act, the FTC is empowered to investigate and prevent “(u)nfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce.” Fair and honest online advertising practices are essential to avoid FTC investigations, therefore, be sure that your business is not advertising false or deceptive information online and that all endorsements or material connections to the advertised product are disclosed in a clear and conspicuous manner.

These are just some of the common legal mistakes businesses can make online. But these mistakes can lead to a negative online presence and potential lawsuits. And these examples along with other mistakes can hinder your company’s overall web and social media success. For additional information and counsel on avoiding these types of errors, contact internet attorney Jason Shinn. Mr. Shinn routinely works with businesses to address e-commerce and social media legal issues.