We know that legal compliance isn’t usually a top priority when setting up a business website for the first time. But it’s an important box to tick. We’ve covered legal considerations for your small business and top tips for managing personal data, and in the third part of this series from Michalson’s, we look at how to do a free website legal audit.

Legal compliance for websites

Legal compliance isn’t often top of the website list, because business owners are more concerned with their website’s look and feel. You might wonder if you even need legal policies if you’re a small business. The truth is that having a legally compliant website shows that protecting your customers’ privacy is important to you.

The first step to legal compliance is to ask Michalsons to do a free website legal audit. It’s a good way to start the process because it’s used to determine whether your website complies with applicable laws, codes, rules and standards. Another benefit is that completing a legal audit can also help protect your website from possible copyright infringement, cyber squatters or security risks. 

Quick wins

That said, there are a few quick wins when it comes to complying with applicable laws, codes, rules and standards. 

A good place to start is to make sure your website has good security. Having an SSL certificate, especially if you are processing online payments, proves to users that there is a secure connection between your website and their personal device. An SSL certificate authenticates you as the provider and puts your users and customers at ease. Users want to know that their personal information is safe when they interact with your website. 

Another quick win is to make sure that the copyright notice at the bottom of your website is reflective of the current year. Often people forget to update their copyright notice for many years, effectively making their site outdated. 

Legal notices and other policies

Organisation is an important aspect of your website as it will help users easily find your legal notices and other policies. Make sure you have a tab in an easily identifiable location which links to all your important policies. You could call it ‘Legal’ or ‘Policies’ for instance. Here you can put your privacy policy (how you process personal information), your terms of use, your complaints procedure, PAIA manual (if you are not exempt) and cookie policy. The more transparent you are and the easier it is to find things on your website, the greater the legal system – and your customers – will feel about your business. Transparency creates trust between you and your customers and can help build your reputation in your chosen industry. 

If you use tracking and analytical cookies, you will need to tell users. The cookie law in Europe has been recently updated to reflect tighter restrictions on any sort of invasive tracking. A good cookie notice or banner can help you get active consent from users or visitors to your website when you place anything other than necessary cookies on their device. 

Security systems

Doing a legal audit of your website can also help you determine key back-end aspects of your website, and whether there are any areas where you open yourself up to risk. When we audit, we will check whether you are in fact the legal owner of your website.

If you have a popular brand name, especially in a specific country (like South Africa), you should also consider registering a .com domain name in addition to your .co.za domain – if it is available. This will prevent cyber squatters from registering a domain name similar to yours and then possibly holding it ransom when you decide to expand your business to other parts of the world. 

Your website is your business showing its face to the world, and you want to make sure you are putting your best foot forward. This doesn’t just mean having a beautiful interactive website, but also a legally compliant one where your users and customers know that your business is one they can trust.

About the author

Tracy Boyes is not your average attorney. Her unusual path to becoming an attorney made its first stop on radio. After completing her law degree at the University of Pretoria, she spent four years at the commercial talk radio station, 702. Her strong communication and presenting skills mean that she is a confident public speaker, and she thrives under pressure. She simplifies complex legal problems and delivers to the client timeously.