Hey, it’s Brian. This article is for informational purposes and is NOT legal advice, cool? Onto the article…
An online business is, in many ways, the ultimate bootstrap venture.
You can start with little or no money.
You just need a solid idea, time, and, as they say, sweat equity.
With the services and software available today, anybody can build a website and even have a full-fledged online business up and running in a matter of hours… if not minutes.
But as the money starts coming in, you can’t forget about the “boring” aspects of running a business.
Choosing a business structure, setting up an LLC, paying taxes, setting up business bank accounts, making sure your website is ADA compliant, and protecting your intellectual property with copyrights and trademarks are all practical matters you have to take care of.
But right now, I’d like to focus on something simple that, if done incorrectly or especially not at all, can land you hot water legally.
I’m talking about privacy policies, terms of service, and disclaimers for your website.
Privacy policies are the main thing to be concerned with here.
But I first wanted to clear up any potential misunderstandings and define exactly where terms of service and disclaimers are as many people get them confused.
- Terms of service outline how refunds and cancellations are handled, deny liability for any viruses or other issues a visitor picks up after clicking to a third-party site from yours, and let everybody know the intellectual property on your site is… your property and cannot be used by anyone else.
- Disclaimers simply let visitors know that you have ads on your site and have affiliate links. Some businesses, such as those providing health advice or selling health products or those providing legal advice, have to disclose that as well.
Simply put, if you collect certain data from visitors to your website, you’re required to have specific disclosures about how that information will and will not be used.
This is serious stuff, backed by strict privacy laws.
When you collect the names, emails, and other information of website visitors to market to them at a later date – which you probably should be doing, if you’re not already – you’re subject to these regulations.
If you don’t, the penalties can be steep, including sizeable fines for each violation, i.e. each visitor to your site. And you could also be sued by the people themselves.
And here’s the rub.
So, you have to update your disclaimers and such as needed.
And word on the street is that a dozen states are in the process of creating and implementing new privacy laws that will impact you even as we speak.
Keep in mind that even if you don’t live in those states, your website visitors could.
And that makes you subject to those laws.
Take the California Consumer Privacy Act, enacted in 2020. If you collect personal data from California residents, you have to follow it.
Same goes for the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, which was set up in 2018.
If you collect personal data of EU residents, you have to follow GDPR or, you guessed it, face legal penalties, including fines.
That’s the beauty… and beast of our global economy.
You can sell to people around the world with your online business, but you could also be subject to laws in all those countries.
It’s a lot to keep track of as a busy entrepreneur.
And, no, you can’t just cut and paste these disclosures from somebody else’s website.
That’s copyright infringement!
And with the complexity of these laws, the sheer number of them, and the fact that they are changing all the time, I don’t recommend you try to write your own disclosures either.
You should know that it’s not just smaller e-commerce ventures that are being targeted.
Major corporations are on the hook as well, even more so because of the volume of personal data they collect from people around the world.
But they have deep pockets and have armies of lawyers protecting their interests and ensuring compliance.
Fortunately, there are solutions out there for the “little guy.”
One way is to hire an attorney, of course.
But there are also services that will write custom disclosures for you and keep them updated as needed.
Let’s check out one of the best-known.
The Lowdown on Termageddon
And this service is not just “one and done.”
Termageddon will automatically update your disclosures as needed to account for changes in current laws or the implementation of new ones.
You start the process by answering some specific questions about your business and website.
It’s in your interest to answer honestly and thoroughly because your answers are what helps Termageddon customize your policies to your needs – and keep you out of trouble!
Sample questions include:
- What personal information do you collect?
- Do you share the personal information you collect?
- Are you a for-profit entity?
- Who should the user contact to request access to, amendments to, or deletion of their data?
Those are just a few of the dozens of questions.
But, again, answer them all truthfully to make sure you get the most out of this service and protect yourself from legal trouble and liability.
You’ll see them all on the dashboard for your Termageddon account.
And, as I say, any time anything needs to be updated due to changes in laws, it’s done automatically.
So, I guess, in a way, it is “set it and forget it.”
At least, on your end as a user.
And that time savings and convenience is a huge benefit, allowing you to focus more on growing your business.
Termageddon does charge a fee, of course.
You can pay by the month or get a discount for paying a year upfront.
But the cost is low for the peace of mind it provides.
And this solution is easy to implement and manage, with an intuitive user interface.
There’s no question.
And if you’re not ready to hire an attorney, Termageddon is a great alternative.