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How To Make Profits Online, Without Upsetting Uncle Sam (3 in a series of 3)

By Chris Genge
Posted Tuesday, September 14, 2004

3- Legal Information that should be on your website now

Trading on the internet is a complex business - but it is frightening how many people do not put up even the simplest terms and conditions or legal disclaimers on their websites.

No disclaimer can give you complete protection from dishonest trading, but there are several statements you should put up to save you from problems with both government and customers alike.

Clearly terms and conditions will depend on the exact trade and business in which you operate, and also the countries with which you trade. However, a few general purpose legal terms on your site will provide you with a degree of legal footing. These terms are set out below together with some indication of why they are important.

Now I am no lawyer, just a well-informed freelance internet writer, so by sharing this information with you I am not giving you legal advice or creating a client-attorney relationship.

This article is intended to make you better informed about potential issues which could arise online. If yo have a specific issue on these or any other internet legal matter, you should consult a qualified solicitor.

-Important: by purchasing this ebook, you are entering into a contract. The terms and conditions of this contract are set out below. It is our legal responsibility to make you aware of any terms and conditions pursuant to this product. It is your responsibility to ensure that you have made yourself aware of these terms and conditions. When you proceed to payment for this product, you will be asked to confirm that you have read and understood these terms and conditions. By continuing with your purchase, you agree to bide by these terms and conditions individually and severally.

This introduction to your terms and conditions sets out clearly how business is to be conducted - makes it clear that you are fulfilling your legal obligations by informing the customer of their rights, and informs them that they are entering a contract. Any further business is assumed to be conducted on these terms.

- You must be aged 18 years or older to purchase this product and use the information contained therein. By confirming your acceptance of our standard terms and conditions you are also confirming that you are aged 18 years or over.

The trading law for those under 18 years of age is more complex than for adults - you will be under stricter refund and representation requirements when selling to minors. While it may not be illegal to sell on the net to those under 18, this statement helps to protect your position should minors be purchasing online.

- Pursuant to the laws of 'your country', the following is a statement of your legal rights.

Make it clear whose laws your trade is being conducted under. While you may potentially sell to anyone in the world, you will probably know your own country's legal position better than anyone's. While this will not protect you if you are selling something illegal in the country of the person who buys your product, at least this clarifies where you are trading from.

- All websites, products and services are provided, as is, without warranty of any kind, either express or implied, including but not limited to the implied warranties or merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose.

A general purpose clause which prevents a wide range of claims from customer should they be dissatisfied with your product. Note that most countries have statutory warranties which you cannot waive - eg: you are entitled to sell the product, and it does what you claim it does. Bt should you be operating honestly, these should not concern you.

- Our company's entire liability, and the purchaser's exclusive remedy, shall be a refund of the price paid or replacement of our products, at our option. We limit replacement to thirt days. All remedies are limited to 'your country'.

- These warranties exclusde all incidental or consequential damage. Our company and its suppliers will not be liable for any damages whatsoever, including without limitation, damages for loss of business profits, business interruption, loss of business information, or other pecuniary loss.

You do not want to pay more than a product price refund. This statement limits the amount and terms on which refunds will be paid. Note that some places will not accept this limit or the confinement to payment in one country - but some problems are reduced.

- This agreement shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of 'your country'. Any legal action arising out of this agreement shall be litigated and enforced under the laws of 'your country'. In addition, you agree to submit to the jurisdiction of the courts of 'your town in your country', and that any legal action pursued by you shall be within the exclusive jursdiction of the courts of 'your town in your country'.

Should someone thousands of miles away have an issue with your product, this statement requires them to conduct all litigation in your own courts - tereby sving you the inconvenience of travelling to their territory - and may act as a deterrent to further action.

Statements such as these should be displayed prominently on your site rather than hidden away where they can not be found. This does not mean a huge flashing legal warning in red capitals - but a tab on your main page together with your other links should be sufficient.

For added security, you can use a shopping cart system which contains a statement telling customers that by purchasing, they are agreeing to abide by the terms and conditions. You could even contain a checkbox that customers must tick before they proceed - demonstrating that they have taken a positive step to read and understand them.

The list of possible legal problems with website sales are endless, and the potential issues complex. The disclaimers and terms above cannot possibly protect you against every single claim or difficulty - but do go a significant way towards reducing your liability and diffiuclties in a general way.

If you feel that this does not cover your particular product or service, it is best to consult your own qualified solicitor. However, statements like those above will put you in a much stronger legal footing than including nothing at all - like so many of the sites currently operating on the web.

More on the legal implications of trading online can be found from websites included in Secret Websites for Online Profits at ( For more information on this e-cyclopaedia please contact

About the Author
Ian Sumter is the publishing director of IGS Marketing - providing high quality information products to people trading on the internet. You are free to publish this article in your ezine or newsletter - but please include the resource box giving our contact details and website - and paragraphs 4 and 5 setting out our legal position on the advice we give.


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