This is part of the Mac Book Pro Challenge where we show you how you could get your own Mac Book Pro or some cash. Why not see how and join the challenge.
Last time on the challenge I discussed the idea of creating a persona to appeal to an audience I have also covered some aspects of Email marketing and making lists safe but I want to cover your legal responsibilities.
Before we start two disclaimers
I am not a lawyer, seriously any queries on legal issues take it to a lawyer here in the UK if you are a sole trader why not try your local Business Link where they can put you in touch with a lawyer who can answer your questions often for no charge if it???s a simple generic enquiry.
This article refers to British Legal system, why? I am a Brit, but also the UK has one of the most stringent legal systems when it comes to business online. Most of its laws and regulations are similar to those in Europe and so is a good basis for marketers, while your own country may differ particularly in the US where its very much dependent on the state you happen to be standing in.
Creating your Legal Notice paper work
I want to cover how to create legal notice paper work that will make even a lawyer be proud. So create a new page name it Legal Notices, Disclaimer Notices or something similar and lets get started.
Who are you?
Our first step is to determine who you are and how you are trading in the UK there are various levels of trader (similar for the rest of the world) but the basics are:
- Individual ??? some one who is perhaps a hobbyist makes and declares monies but also has an alternate revenue stream (pension/job)
- Sole Trader ??? A singular person who trades (has a business) which he is the sole person in charge of the finances and who???s business assets are owned by the person.
- Non Limited Partnership – As per sole trader but a group of people manage the company and its assets within an agreed legal agreement.
- Limited Company ??? A company that is registered with Company House, such companies are registered and must present their books to company house once a year.
Beyond Limited company there are several more levels but by that stage you are into high finance world and well beyond the scope of this article. Most people reading this and trying to make money online will be Individuals, you probably have a job and are after some additional money in which case legally all you have to do is report your additional earnings to the tax man. A Sole Trader and Partnership is legally required to inform the Tax man about individual earnings but nothing more. A limited company must report its finances as an entity to Company House and individual directors who draw money but not a salary from the company must record this separately. The big advantage of a limited company other then to protect a trading name is that the company debt is not always personal debt of the directors. If you are not a limited company debts accrued by the company are held against the individuals of the partnership.
One thing to hold in mind is the British tax system has perhaps one of the strangest laws attached to it.
???Under the UK???s Tax Avoidance Schemes Regulations 2006, it is illegal not to tell the taxman anything you don???t want him to know, though you don???t have to tell him anything you don???t mind him knowing.??
Basically this was designed to make it illegal to hide money deliberately, but to protect those who failed to make a complete tax return from harsh sentences but it is some what unenforceable but hey its worth remembering you don???t want to hide things from the tax man.
Before moving on it???s worth adding VAT a non limited business can be registered for VAT this is different from registering with Company House if the company is VAT registered it has implications as to what information you need to display.
Sole Traders and Partnerships often don???t use their names when trading, but in formal documents a trading name must be declared??¦
Tim Nash trading as CNMS
For example or in a partnership surnames are normally sufficient as long as the full partnership is named elsewhere so??¦
Nash, Hills, Johnson trading as CNMS
Owner of a web site
When you register a web site you can choose to register it as an individual, sole trader, partnership and limited company. With the exception of Limited Company the website domain name is the property of the person who registered it, unless it is agreed differently in a partnership agreement. The information on the Whois has to be correct, for a sole trader or partnership who are VAT registered this means the address you gave on the VAT return, a limited company your company registered address and for everyone else the mailing address of your business. Sometimes you may find you need to adjust these after purchase particularly if your address of your Credit Card was different.
Every web site should have contact information on it, apart from allowing people to contact you in nearly all cases as a trader it is required. However unless you are a VAT registered or Limited Company the amount of information needed is limited to a method of contact such as email address remember though this is purely on the web site itself the information is still needed in the Whois.
The Ecommerce Regulations require the minimum information to be kept:
- A Trading Name ??? example.com is the property of CNMS
- A contact Email ??? A contact form is not enough it must be a valid email address
- Registered Address if Limited or VAT registered ??? The complete address, plus the place of registration for Limited Companies
- VAT and Company numbers ??? If company has both then both need to be displayed.
Example Who Are You section
Example.com is the property of Tim Nash trading as CNMS .
For more information please contact via firstname.lastname@example.org
VAT Registered Partnership
Example.com is the property of Nash, Johnson, Smith trading as CNMS
For more information please contact us via email@example.com
CNMS is VAT registered, number 00000000, Address: 4 made up street, PP33 SDK, UK
Disclaimer of Brands
Andy recently discussed some of the issues related to the UKs Consumer Protection Regulations which covers many issues including the not telling the truth or pretending to be something you are not. Given our last post was all about creating personas, people to sell our site we need to cover ourselves from the act. This section is also a good place to credit photographers and external brands even theme designers if its appropriate.
Example of Brand Disclaimer
Example person images, name and description are branding of CNMS, All images are the property of Joe Blogs Photographer and are licensed for use by CNMS all models are over the age of 18 and their images are used with permission. The site theme was designed by Joe Blogs and released under license.
This may not seem very fair and indeed it is only really dealing with the legality of the act, when designing personas it is important to make sure that potential buyers do not believe they are dealing with a specific individual unless of course they are.
This section would also be a good place to declare trademarks referenced and used. It is unlikely you hold trademarks so this section will be declaring their use on the site. Most Trademark use is when mentioning products which are owned by the company such uses are perfectly legal but you should declare the use of trademarks if you have not done so within Articles for example
Example of Trademark Disclaimer
Within the UK: Mac Book Pro, Apple, IPod are trademarks of Apple Ltd. Google Adsense, Logo are property of Google Ltd. Use of the respective companies trademarks is for product description purposes only. Other trademarks are used within guidelines of fair use when describing products or services and are the property of their respective owners.
Disclaimer of Facts
Do you know Lying is immoral right? Its also nearly always illegal to, the distance selling regulations along with unfair trading regulations pretty much make it illegal to misrepresent your product or service in anyway this includes but not limited to.
- Inflating earning potential
- not specifying sale length
- inappropriate description of services or product
One of the more problematic part of the regulations is that you are in breach if you attempt to mislead an average user even if you are factually correct. Put simply If you state the car is Green but in reality it is Green and Yellow you have breached the act as while you are correct it is green you have not fully described the product.
Example Disclaimer of Facts
CNMS takes every effort to accurately reflect statistics and products in a true manner, occasionally statistics and other figures maybe rounded or averaged to make them simpler to understand in such cases CNMS strives to notify the reader. Occasionally CNMS is unable for legal restrictions or other reasons to provide accurate figures in such cases the reason is given prior to the figures.
Descriptions and statements declared to be factually accurate are checked prior to release and every effort is made to maintain accuracy. If a statement appears not to be accurate please contact us via our address as stated.
CNMS can not be held responsible for misrepresenting a third party product or service if the description of the product has changed since the initial release of information.
The disclaimer is primarily to cover your interaction with third parties rather then your own products when it comes to your own products no declaimer page is going to help if you miss sell a product.
Disclaimer of Earning Methods
While not strictly required in every case most people are going to need to declare how the site earns money and in particular if you use affiliate links within reviews. This is also a good place to declare paid for links if you have any note this is not a legal requirement, it???s important to understand a company guidelines and requirements such as those from Google should not be confused with something legally binding. However a notice section is a good place to include such information
Example of Earning Methods
CNMS uses affiliate links (web links which associate sales of a product to CNMS) when linking to some products, offers and services on this site. In addition advertising in the form of images and textual links are bought such advertising are declared and the purchase of advertising does not influence the content on the site. CNMS may provide additional marketing and advertising methods to third parties.
Example of selling your users
CNMS from time to time will pass user???s details to third parties for use in statistical analysis and marketing. CNMS is not responsible for the content from third parties.
You can???t prevent people linking to you, and nor do you want to however its worth declaring you have no control on what they said about the site or product likewise you should indicate you do not have editorial control of external sites.
Example Links Policy
CNMS has no control over inbound links and will not honour prices, descriptions of products and services which are different from those stated on this site without prior agreement. CNMS links to external sites and does not have editorial control and is not responsible for their content.
Nice the good news is we are pretty much there now its time to add your Privacy and Accessibility policies.
UK and Europe have some tough anti discrimination guidelines but almost no one knows what an accessible site is though most agree it is probably a site that reaches WAI level 1 & 2 as set down by W3C. Most blogs should easily meet these requirements presuming your site does so your declaration should be fairly straight forward.
Example Accessibility Disclaimer
Where possible we try to maintain this site to WAI level 1 & 2 priority standard and well within the UK and EU disability guidelines however if you have a problem while reading or commenting on this blog please do contact us as described below.
Putting it all together, ok so this was a long post, but your complete policy should look something like our Legal Notice. This might seem like a lot of work and you may think that so few people read such documents why bother?
Two reasons 1) Ass covering, its the law and if its not where you are it will protect you against random law suits 2) Requirement, more and more affiliate and advertising companies are looking for privacy policies and declaring paid content.
Remember IAMNL (I am not a lawyer) any one making money should get a lawyer in their home country to read through any legal notice.