Online Disclaimers

Online Disclaimers

As Microsoft expands its Web presence by touting .Net, XML and the Web capabilities of Windows 2000, Windows administrators and developers might find themselves lacking basic Web knowledge that their Web-savvy UNIX counterparts take for granted. These Windows experts, previously concerned with internal network management, are going to be thrust into the big, dangerous world of the Web. Simple things like online disclaimers can help smooth the transition.

When you think of e-commerce, you think of growing your business, and cashing in on all those electronic dollars out there on the Web. But there are dangers as well. Today's tip lists one precaution you should take, publishing a disclaimer. It is excerpted from The E-business (R)evolution, published by Hewlett-Packard Professional Books.

A problem with having a Web site is that everyone could become an adversary if the event that a difficulty arises from relying on information, services or products that you have provided. In order to prevent financial loss and damage every Web site needs a properly worded disclaimer. It needs to be written in a clear and unequivocal manner, in order to be understood by anyone in the world. But because of differing national laws a disclaimer or parts of it may not be valid in all countries.

If your Web site contains only some contact information then a simple disclaimer will be enough, but as soon as you provide information, products or services that business rely on or act upon, the disclaimer on your Web page needs to be as watertight as possible. If your company deals a lot with French and German speaking countries, it is advisable to translate the disclaimer, as it may not be understood correctly by non-native English speakers. A simple translation will not do it. It is necessary to check the local law and see if the disclaimer applies or if it needs to be adapted.

Once the wording of the disclaimer has been completed, it is necessary to find a good place on the Web page, in order to make it easily accessible. On some sites the disclaimer is almost hidden, which renders it very ineffective. In some countries, such as Germany, it may even be illegal, if the disclaimer is not presented in a highly visible manner. Putting the disclaimer on the home page, on the other hand, will be overkill. Typically a link from all pages should be provided to the disclaimer and in the case of accepting a business transaction of any kind, the customer should be notified about the disclaimer, and the text could be presented in a text box on the Web page.


This was first published in October 2000

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