How Legal Disclaimers Work On Websites
Websites can owe a duty of care to those who visit them and then rely upon the information contained in that website.
So if your business website contains posts, opinion or guidance which readers may rely upon, you should think about incorporating a legal disclaimer and exclusion of liability.
Disclaimers are designed to overcome potential litigation. They remove the suggestion that loss can be attributed to something you have said on your website and in circumstances where it was reasonable for that person to rely on what you said. So readers rely upon website content at their own risk.
If your legal disclaimers are clearly visible on your website then it is hard for a user to suggest that they haven’t seen them. Businesses often insert legal disclaimers at the bottom of each page. In order to gain maximum protection, website users can also be asked to expressly agree to the terms of your website by clicking an “I agree” button.
Use explicit wording in your legal disclaimers. The law is constantly changing and so it’s best to get legal advice if you are unsure about anything regarding website warnings. Ensure that you cover the key areas:
- Rights to information published – be explicit about the IP and copyright on your website and what users can do with published information. Businesses often restrict use to personal use. The aim is to protect your business against a misuse of information. You can also expressly state that any content submitted to your website becomes your property.
- Website content – You are responsible for the quality and accuracy of information on your website. You can limit liability by explaining that the content on your website is for information purposes only, not intended to constitute professional advice, and that the information will not always be up to date. So visitors who use your website and rely on any information do so at their own risk.
- Restrictions on who can use the website – depending on your website content, you can restrict access to certain age groups or to some geographical locations (for example, over 16 years of age and an explanation that the material only applies in the UK).
- Limit exposure on external links – it is commonplace for business to link to external websites. However you may want a legal disclaimer which limits any further liability; stating that you are not responsible for the content or reliability of any other website and that you do not necessarily endorse views expressed within them.
- Right to remove, reuse or reproduce material – this is just common-sense. Your business does not want to be in a position later down the line where you need to ask permission to remove, reuse or reproduce content so be explicit in your disclaimer.
- Liability of website users – It is a good idea to expressly state that website users must not use your website in any way which is unlawful, illegal, fraudulent or harmful. Again it is best practice to reiterate that your business accepts no responsibility for any loss or harm incurred.
- Limit liability for viruses, damage and availability – you don’t want to be held to account for any of these risks if something goes wrong. Add a legal disclaimer which states that it is the responsibility of website users to manage their own access, security and virus issues.
- Legal jurisdiction – specify that your website operates under English Law and that any disputes will take place in an English court. This ought to prevent you being pursued in a foreign court under a law which would not apply in a UK jurisdiction.
Remember you can never limit liability for making fraudulent claims or anyone coming to serious harm using the information contained on your website. Whilst these risks are of course very slim, as with all legal disclaimers, death or personal injury caused by negligence cannot be excluded.
Of course, you shouldn’t take our word for it as this page contains general information only and you should always seek independent legal advice.
Article written by Rachel Furniss.
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