How to Legally Protect Yourself When Offering New Products and Services

As we’ve faced the significant impact of stay-at-home orders, many businesses are making lightning-fast decisions to help them pivot to keep their businesses moving. For some brick-and-mortar businesses, this has meant a shift to offering online services. For digital businesses, this may include offering more courses or new services. 

Different services or products could impact you in ways that you haven’t considered. If you have made changes to your business as a result of the pandemic, it’s important to make sure you are protecting yourself legally, too. 

Have you transitioned your existing services from in-person to digital?

As you transition from working with clients in-person to a digital platform, you may not need significant changes to the legal side of your business; however, be sure you review your client agreement and adjust as needed.

If you do all of your booking and payments online without a written contract, ensure that your terms of service and any purchase policies are updated.

During uncertain times like this, review your cancellation policy for one-on-one services. You may want to offer more flexibility if someone needs to reschedule or cancel an appointment.

Have you added a new service?

If you’ve added a new service, first consider how it differs from your existing services. This will help guide you as you determine what documents you may need.

Adjust Your Client Agreement

Whenever you are offering services, we strongly recommend that you have a signed agreement between you and your clients that governs the scope of your relationship.

If you are already a service provider with an existing contract in place, review this agreement to ensure it covers any differences between your existing services and any new services. Most commonly, this could affect your scope of work, pricing, cancellation, and termination provisions.

Review Your Website Policies

If the purchase of services is entirely done through your website, without a signed contract, ensure that you have updated your terms of service and/or purchase policies to reflect any changes that may be needed to encompass the new services.

Have you added digital products?

If you haven’t sold digital products in the past, you will need to ensure that you have the appropriate policies in place on your website. This typically includes:

Website Terms of Service

Your website’s terms of service govern how your audience may use your website. These terms can vary depending upon the services and content on your website.

If, for example, you’ve added a new paid membership component, you may need to add policies to govern their usage.

Privacy Policy

If you don’t already have a privacy policy, we strongly recommend you add one. This is a key policy that tells your audience what personal information you collect, how you use it, which third parties you share the information with, and how you use cookies.

If you haven’t had digital products on your site in the past, you are likely collecting more personal information than you have in the past and this policy should be changed accordingly. Also, you may be sharing that personal information with additional service providers, like a payment processor or third-party ecommerce platform.

Purchase Policies

Whenever you offer products for sale on your website, we recommend a purchase policy. Some companies don’t allow returns, while others allow returns for any reason. Some companies fall somewhere in between.

Companies may also vary policies between a physical product that is shipped directly to the purchaser and digital products, like courses or ebooks. It’s an important policy to have on your site since it can help keep your clients satisfied.

Remember, if you have a satisfaction guarantee on your products, if it has any contingencies, make sure you have been specific about what a purchaser needs to do in order to obtain a refund. For example, if someone needs to do something specific before they qualify for the guarantee (such as go through a certain amount of your program or try your product), ensure that your website is clear.

Disclaimer

You could need a disclaimer that protects you from liability for a product that was meant to serve solely for informational purposes only. This is common for businesses that offer information on topics where people would often seek professional advice, such as legal, financial, fitness, medical or nutrition advice.

For example, if you are a personal trainer who has added online on-demand workouts, you may want to include a disclaimer to protect yourself from liability for injuries and to advise the purchaser to seek medical advice in certain circumstances.

License for use of digital goods

If you are adding digital products, you may want to include a license to ensure the purchaser is aware of what rights they have to the product. For example, you can specify if they able to resell the content or is it intended for their personal use only.

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