Contributed by Kimberly Calvi, Paralegal to Attorney Bradley C. Pinta, of Pinta Law Group, LLC.

The Legal Particulars That Every Website Needs and the Benefit to Consumers

With so many website building applications available, it’s never been easier for business owners, service providers, or merchants to publicize and advertise their enterprise. The most popular of these offer a complete package of web hosting, search engine optimization (SEO) tools, compatibility with other online tools and apps, mobile editing, and analytics. These additional tools make it easier for a website owner to mind their business, literally, and use these tools to learn more about the demographics of who is visiting their website, who their customer base is, and where they are coming from, so as to market themselves better and appear on the first page of a Google search engine results page (SERP), if not at the top of the page. All of this is the Internet-savvy and predominant marketing means of gaining a strong presence in this digital age to market one’s business effectively. However, one imperative aspect that any reputable business with a website gives attention to, is the legal language necessary on a website. Usually found in the footer, which is the bottom banner of a website site and typically contains all of the same information on every page, such content always includes the copyright dates and the ‘All Rights Reserved’ statement, at a minimum. The copyright dates always include the first year that the website was launched, and the second year is always the most recent when there has been an edit, a change, or an addition to the website. These two dates are separated by an en dash, without any spaces. An example would be if someone left the company, whose photo, name, title, and professional biography appeared on the ‘Our Team’ page. Other examples include a blog posting, additional customer testimonial comments, new products or services on offer, or even a change of physical address. Also important, if the website is for a service, such as legal counsel, where a website visitor fills out and submits a form with their personal information and their issue, there is usually a disclaimer stating that the website is offering the published information only and this should not be construed as providing any kind of legal advice or that an attorney-client relationship has been established. Some other businesses where this language and principle applies include insurance companies, wealth management advisory firms, or medical care offices and facilities, where potential clients are looking for a quote, requesting an appointment with an advisor, or asking for medical advice from a specialist, respectively. Websites selling merchandise have their own specific, legal language requirements. This centers on matters such as the return policy and warranties, gift card purchases and monetary reloads, rewards or points, member discounts, and price reductions and sales. Business to Business (B2B) services company websites often have a page dedicated to press releases or other marketing collateral, on behalf of their own clients and there is legal language associated with that proprietary relationship, as well. This is especially true if the B2B client is publicly traded; investor relations contact information must always be included on the front page of any posted publication. The above information is specific to non-government entities. But, what about local, state, or federal government websites? Pains are taken to make sure that all required legal language is clear, written for a general audience, and contact information is readily available. These websites often have protocols in place for those who are visually or hearing impaired.

Ultimately, with data breaches on the rise, the single most important piece of information required of all websites collecting personal information from its website visitors is a privacy policy. This is an international mandate. Privacy policies are featured on many websites where a third party service is used to enhance the performance of the website if it uses a payment processing tool, for example. These websites must be clear about what type of information is collected by the website or the app, the purpose of collecting the data, how the data is stored, its security and access, details regarding data transfer, any affiliated websites, and use of cookies. When collecting personal data (full name, address, phone number, birth date, Social Security number, credit card account numbers, bank account numbers, and email address or any combination thereof), there also has to be language stating that this information will not be shared with an outside party without prior customer permission. Consumers do not generally pay attention to these legal requirements when visiting a website. However, it should be reassuring that responsible private business owners of every sort, as well as publicly traded companies and government entities follow these legally prescribed considerations.