Websites have been used for many years by businesses to promote their particular brand. In recent years they have been used for other purposes. They have included promotions or competitions to enable a business owner to build a database, and to appeal to a range of shoppers who no longer want to visit a shop. They also include allowing a customer to give feedback in relation to a service provided to a business. The common legal issues that now arise from the use of websites include: • Privacy Policy – It is important to include a privacy policy on your website. Although this appears to be “fine print” with no marketing benefit it will deal with a range of issues. A policy will include your ability to disclose information to third parties, showing that you are using all reasonable efforts to protect confidentiality but cannot guarantee that no inadvertent disclosure will occur, and a consumers right to correct information you hold for them.

• Competitions – A competition can be a great way to build a database of customers for future promotions. Factors that will be relevant to you, and needed to be included in any agreement will be:

o Strict and clear rules as to who can enter, who decides who wins the competition, and how to vote and how often you can vote; o Ensuring that if you are running the promotion through Facebook that you comply with their strict requirements, as do your customers; o That a prize cannot be redeemed for cash; and o The ability to publish details of the winner and any photo, as well as to promote the winners details on social media.

• Newsletters – When you obtain a customers email address they need to consent to you using that email address for other purposes. Typically this is done with a “tick box” so that a customer can opt in, or out. It is important to maintain this system, and you cannot send unsolicited emails to build a customer database as anti-spam laws include penalties for this behaviour.

• Feedback on Services – A service based business will seek feedback as a form of promotion. While this is designed to procure positive feedback there is always a risk of negative remarks being made. A business with an active website is publishing material in the public domain. Business owners who procure on-line feedback need to carefully monitor that feedback. Matters to watch out for include:

o Where a customer of yours discredits a competitors product. You need to ensure that this information is balanced and fair, as your promotion of an incorrect comparison could make you subject to a claim under the Fair Trading Act; o It is important not to infringe the intellectual property of anyone else where a reference to a trademark is made without the trademark being acknowledged; o Be careful that what a customer posts is not defamatory of any person as you could be exposed to liability as the publisher.

The most important matter that a business owner needs to consider carefully before undertaking website marketing is that there is a privacy policy in place, and that you cover off the issues of privacy of your customers. A common principle which is overlooked is that it must be quite clear as to how that customers personal information can be used by you. A good example would be that you would want any email addresses gathered from a competition to be able to be used in the future for unrelated promotions. Finally, it is important that these issues are covered off before you start a website marketing campaign rather than after you commence it.

This post was published in the FMCG Business magazine