Online businesses can offer a quick and cost effective way to get your idea off the ground. But there are a number of important legal considerations.
We have a variety of documents available which may you may need for your online business. This guide will lead you through some of the things you need to think about, and will help you to understand what these various documents do.
Any online business needs to have a set of terms and conditions. It sets out how users may use the website or application, and what users can and cannot do on the website or application.
For example, if a user posts offensive or defamatory content on a website, the owner of the site will want to have terms and conditions to fall back on which clearly state that the owner of the site does not permit or take responsibility for that offensive content, and that any liability (such as a defamation claim) should therefore sit with the user. In addition, the owner of the site may want to have the ability to terminate the user's account - and this also will need to be explained in the terms and conditions.
Most website owners also need to have terms that protect their intellectual property - such as images, videos, text, or other information that is published on their website. Again, this needs to be handled within the terms and conditions.
And if the website owner publishes useful information for their users (for example, blogs about health or finance related matters), then the website owner will also want to make sure that their terms and conditions clarify that users rely on the information at their own risk. Our terms and conditions have options to address all of these issues.
Privacy law can get complicated when online businesses operate across international borders. For example, if you are selling products to users outside Australia, then foreign privacy laws might apply, in addition to Australian privacy laws.
A good example of this is the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which applies in the EU and the UK. The GDPR came into effect in 2018 and has had a significant impact on businesses all over the world, due to strict obligations that it creates for website owners, and the fact that it can apply to businesses that are located outside of the EU and the UK.
In particular, the GDPR applies to businesses that have an establishment in the EU or UK, offer goods and services in the EU or UK, or monitor the behaviour of individuals in the EU or UK.
A Cookies Policy is another useful document for website owners as it tells users of the website what cookies are active on the website, what they do, and what website users can do about them. Cookies are small files which websites use in order to monitor the use of a website, and to provide a more personalised experience to website users.
Businesses that are subject to Australian privacy law may be legally required to tell users about the types of cookies (and other data) that they collect, and how these cookies and data are used.
Furthermore, many Australian businesses find that even if they are not strictly required by law to provide a cookies policy or to obtain informed consent from their users, by using this cookies policy, they are able to answer their customers' questions about cookies, which helps to build trust with their customers.
An Email Disclaimer does not actually appear on the website, but as it is used by most online business owners we are choosing to include it in this guide anyway. An email disclaimer, as the name suggests, appears in emails. You will have seen disclaimers on the bottoms of emails you've received in the past.
As a business owner, you'll want to have an email disclaimer included in any of the emails that you send out to customers. Apart from making your business look more professional, the disclaimer will also:
In addition to the website-related documents which we have described above, many online businesses also require a number of other common business documents.
For example, if the business is selling products via the website, then it may need a Contract for Sale of Goods. If the business is providing services via the website (for example, consulting or freelance services) then it may need a Service Agreement.
When setting up an online business there are a number of important legal considerations, on top of the legal considerations that ordinary businesses need to address.
This guide is intended to give you an overview of the main documents that you may need to think about. Further information about each document is available by clicking the links in this guide. As always, if you have any concerns about your own legal situation then seek legal advice.