Guest post by Jennifer K. Halford, Esq.
It's amazing how the Internet has completely changed the small business owner's ability to advertise and sale her products or services. In fact, it is rare to find a business these days that doesn't have a website.
Recently I was speaking with a small business owner about her business' website. She didn't realize was that by having a business website she is subjecting her business to responsibilities and liabilities that she does not have in her brick-and-mortar store.
Like many small business owners, she did not know that there are constantly changing ecommerce laws and tax liabilities that directly affect her business' website. It occurred to me that despite the common occurrence of having a website, few business owners understand what legal agreements they should have on their site.
At a minimum, every small business owner should have these three legal must-haves on their business' website:
1. Terms and Conditions: The terms and conditions is a contract between your business and the user of your business' website. It should include your shipping and return policies, disclaimers of liabilities, warranties (or disclaimer of warranties) for your products, and a statement about the copyright protection of your website.
The terms and conditions should also include a statement that by using the website or the services offered, the user shows consent to be bound by the terms and conditions. It is prudent to also require the user to check a box showing agreement to be bound before they can proceed with buying an item from your site.
2. Where a dispute will be resolved: The law is tricky when it comes to where a business website can be sued. Your business may have to defend a lawsuit in another state if you advertise and sell products through your website to people that live there. Include a consent agreement in your terms and conditions stating that users agree that any dispute will be resolved in the courts of your state.
Examples of each of these legal must-haves for your business website can be found on most ecommerce sites. Talk with an attorney to make sure that you have them tailored to protect your business.
Jennifer K. Halford is an attorney whose practice focuses on business law and estate planning. She is also a professor at California State University, Chico, where she teaches Entrepreneurial Law.