Site protection Featured

5:56am EDT January 31, 2003
While the Web is a great place to sell your products and services, it is also fraught with legal peril. Gone are the days when your company could simply display products and prices and provide an order form.

"Your customers need to be able to see the terms and conditions of sale," says Anker Bell, partner with Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease LLP in Columbus.

Terms and conditions be accessible to customers, and the site should be designed so that the sale cannot take place without the customer agreeing to the terms with a click of the mouse.

What needs to be included? According to Bell, your refund/return and privacy policies as well as your copyright information are essential.

"Stating your refund and return policies limits your liability exposure," says Bell.

David Carroll, partner in the Columbus office of Arter & Hadden LLP, says the terms and conditions establish the legal relationship between the customer and the business.

"The terms should make it clear where lawsuits must be filed, usually the locality of the business," says Carroll.

They should also state a cap on the amount of liability the business will be subject to, which usually doesn't exceed the purchase price.

Letting visitors know your site has copyrighted material prevents it from being copied, and this information can be included in the terms and conditions, says Carroll.

Online privacy issues have become a top concern of consumers. When customers order from your site, they provide personal information. Because some sites sell that information to other companies, customers are wary about providing it without knowing exactly how it will be used.

"The privacy policy should include what information is collected, how it is used and maintained, and whether it is provided to others," says Carroll.

Outside of the financial and health care industries, there are no legal mandates to provide this information, but Carroll predicts there will be soon.

"Stay ahead of the game and provide your privacy policy now," he says.

And it's not just good enough to state the policy -- it needs to be an accurate description of how your company functions.

"If you say you're not providing the information to others, make sure you aren't," Carroll says. "Do what the policy says." How to reach: Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease LLP, (614) 464-6400; Arter & Hadden LLP, (614) 221-3155