Posted by Regie Anne Gardoce on 3 December 2019
When you first think about legal help you’ll need for your business, you might hear people tell you that you’ll need a disclaimer.
If you’re offering goods or products that have risks, having a disclaimer is important for ensuring your customers are aware of these risks and that you’re fully protected.
What Is A Disclaimer?
A disclaimer is a simple legal document that excuses you from liability.
It sets out that both you and your customers are on the same page about what goods and services you provide, and that anything beyond that should be their own responsibility.
Why Do I Need A Disclaimer?
Put simply, you’ll need a disclaimer whenever your business is carrying some sort of risk.
At Sprintlaw, we’ve spoken to thousands of small businesses and startups who provide a wide range of goods and services, and ultimately expose themselves to some type of risk.
And the last thing you want as a small business is to be liable for something outside of your control.
Having a solid disclaimer in place makes it clear between you and your customers on what goods and services you’re providing, and anything beyond that is beyond the scope of your liability.
When Can I Use A Disclaimer?
Depending on your business model, what goods and services you’re providing, and who you interact with, there are many different ways in which a legal disclaimer could protect your business.
Let’s go through two simple examples.
First, let’s say you’re running an online store that sells beauty products.
You might be manufacturing these particular products and your online buyers could be purchasing these products for themselves, as a gift or reselling to others.
As such, you might not be aware of how far your products could reach (and what people could do with them).
For a small business with a tight budget, the last thing you want is to be held liable for someone not using your product properly, or relying on it for something for which it was not intended.
There’s always a risk that customers may have different expectations when they’re purchasing your products than what you originally intended. They may also try to use your products for purposes for which they were not designed.
This is where a legal disclaimer comes in.
In this particular case, a disclaimer will spell out that your beauty products (such as skin care or hair products) do not constitute any sort of therapeutic medical advice, and should therefore not be relied upon as such.
And, in scenarios like this, you’ll also want to make sure people follow the particular instructions pertaining to each product (some of your products may not be recommended for certain skin types, for example).
A second example of when a disclaimer can be useful is when you are providing some sort of coaching or mentoring support — whether that be through an online fitness program or a mobile phone application.
Here, a legal disclaimer can work for your business by making it clear to your customers that your services do not constitute any sort of medical advice and should therefore not be relied upon as such.
Does A Disclaimer Exclude Me From All Types of Liability?
An advantage of having a properly drafted legal disclaimer is that you can run your business without worrying about customers holding you liable for the wrong reasons.
But it’s important to make sure you’re doing it right.
You might think that it’s simple to quickly write up a disclaimer and be excused from all types of liability, but this isn’t quite accurate.
As with any legal document, you cannot excuse yourself from liability if your particular products or services are subject to regulations that state otherwise.
This is particularly true in industries where you might need a licence or to be registered in order to provide particular goods or services, in which case there may be certain rules for how you exclude liability.
If this is the situation you’re in, it’s a good idea to seek a specialist who can advise you of your obligations.
Otherwise, a good lawyer can help identify the main risks for your business, how a legal disclaimer might work for you and how to do it right.
What Else Do I Need?
While having a disclaimer is always a good start, there are other legal documents you will need to make sure you’re fully protected.
A disclaimer can simply be included in your general Business Terms and Conditions. This is a much more comprehensive document that will also include terms around payment, delivery, supply and liability limitations to make sure you’re protected.
Lastly, whenever you’re operating your business out of a website, it’s always important to have simple Website Terms & Conditions. This will govern the rules when people use your website (so that you won’t be responsible for anything that goes wrong while others use your website!).
As such, it’s a good idea to speak with a qualified lawyer who can tell you what legal documents you need to think about for your business.
Need Help With A Disclaimer?
If you’d like to get started with a disclaimer, we can help!
Our team of lawyers have worked with hundreds of startups and small businesses across Australia who want to make sure they’re protected as much as possible — so we understand your concerns.
You can reach out to our team at email@example.com or 1800 730 617.