Website disclaimers: The inside story
There is a lot of confusion about what a Website Disclaimer is and does.
A Disclaimer seems to be the ‘catch-phrase’ used these days for a number of different things. So it’s a good time to make an important business distinction for your website.
What is it?
Generally, a Website Disclaimer is a notice on a website that attempts to limit liability of the website owner for losses resulting from things such as:
- Content accuracy
- Reliance on information
- Copyright infringement
- Virus transmission, etc.
Do they work?
Good question. For a long time, Website Disclaimers have been a slightly ‘grey’ area of the law.
You often see websites include a Disclaimer that states:
“This information is of a general nature only, and is not professional advice” or “we accept no liability for the accuracy of this information or any reliance you may place on it”, or something similar. But does it really protect you? The short answer is that more often than not it will.
Website Disclaimers go a long way to protecting you and your business from visitors coming to your website and, for example, misunderstanding/misinterpreting information on your site and trying to sue you for their resulting losses. But they are of limited (if any) effect if you have misleading information on your website.
It also will not override your legal responsibilities and protect you from cases where you make negligent or fraudulent statements on your website.
It can, however, deter visitors from making claims against you and it also shows a court that you made an attempt to warn visitors of any risks they were taking on by deciding to use your website.
What do I need to include?
You need to ensure your website has an appropriately worded Disclaimer. They don’t need to be long but the language is important and should:
Instruct visitors to make their own independent inquiries before acting on any information; and
State that all information is of a general nature only and must not be taken as specific or complete advice.
What is the best line of defence for my website?
- Have a Disclaimer. A good one is the first line of defence for any claim against you and also may help limit your liability even if you may be held liable for statements or information on your website.
- Ensure your Disclaimer is easily found and obvious. It’s critical to have a website disclaimer easily located on your website to protect (or at least limit) your liability.
- Regularly update your website. Ensure your information is not outdated and that there is no information likely to mislead or be misinterpreted.