Businesses must act now to ensure all of their web terms and conditions comply with legal requirements, before increasingly vigilant legal watchdogs catch up with anyone whose small print hides bad practice.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) recently launched a one day internet sweep to catch out websites that are flaunting consumer rights or, actively misleading customers with their own non-compliant refund policies.
What are the implications of the recent ACCC sweep?
If caught out, fines could be as high as $200,000 for individuals and $1.1 million for businesses.
Businesses need to look at a whole suite of terms and conditions that govern the customer-website relationship. There are broad requirements that businesses might not be aware of. The fines in this area are heavy, so it is better to invest in getting the right T&Cs now, rather than risk your business altogether.
However, too many businesses think that cutting and pasting from another site or, just making terms up will cover them.
The fact is, you cannot override consumer protection legislation by coming up with your own T&Cs, such as a 14 day refund policy – which is not legal.
Getting it right from the start, means you are protected from possible big fines later on.
What can businesses do about their terms and conditions?
If you have any online presence, look at the following areas closely.
Privacy: Businesses with a turnover of under $3 million a year are not legally required to comply with the Privacy Act. However, it is best practice to do so, plus it instils confidence in customers.
Purchase Terms: If you have an e-commerce website you need to display the purchasing and shipping terms. Make sure these terms made clear before a customer actually pays.
Be warned that the law is closing in on anyone contravening the rules. There has been a gap between legal rules in the ‘real world’ and what applies in the virtual one. But, that gap is rapidly closing.
About The Author
Jamie White is the business director at Pod Legal, a specialist law firm offering expertise in intellectual property law, technology law and social media law. Jamie has experience in advising businesses on all aspects of intellectual property, including trademarks, designs, copyright, licensing, franchising and commercialisation strategies. He is also an Adjunct Teaching Fellow at Bond University Law School where he co-ordinates and lectures the Electronic Commerce and the Law subject.
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