Creating a Policy of Trust: Why Your Website Needs Policy Pages

Updated: Jan 25th 2021

When it comes to providing services online, it’s not enough to make promises: You need to show proof. Featuring prominently-placed policies and legal terms on your site shows that you take your business, and your users, seriously. Policy pages provide a legal backing behind your promises and help build trust even among your most skeptical users. 

In addition, policy pages serve as protection from any unexpected legal issues down the line. We often wait until something goes wrong before deciding to protect ourselves. Unfortunately this approach is usually too little, too late. Policy pages let you get ahead of any potential legal issues and lead with a forward thinking approach to running your business.

What Policy Pages Do I Need?

Policy pages are not technically required to run a website, but you risk losing user trust and potentially put yourself in legal hot water without them. Legislation such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) require that websites disclose certain privacy settings, such as cookie use and data gathering practices. And while these laws only apply to site visitors from Europe and California, it’s impossible to know whether you will host website visitors from either area, so it’s best to stay on the safe side.

The pages you choose to include will depend on which types of services you provide and your specific niche. An ecommerce site will differ in needs from a blog, for example. Here are some common pages most websites will want to include and the tools that can help site owners easily create them.

Privacy Policy

A clear privacy policy is your first step toward gaining the trust of your user. In many countries including the US, privacy policies are mandated by law, so this is one area you can’t ignore if you collect personal information like email or physical addresses, account, or credit details. Your privacy page needs to include:

  • What user information you collect, including email addresses, financial information, and even IP addresses
  • How you obtain this information
  • The reason you’re asking for personal information
  • How you store and protect user information
  • How you update your policy and how you update users about these changes
  • Who has access to your information, which could include newsletter services and any third-party tools

You can use services such as Rocket Lawyer or TermsFeed to create free customized privacy policies for your site. These tools allow you to tailor your policy to meet a varying degree of regulatory frameworks, such as GDPR, CalOPPA, CCPA, and more.

Cookie Policy

Some website owners combine their privacy and cookie policies, which is legal in the US but potentially violates EU law. In 2011, the European Union adopted the Cookies Directive, which requires sites to alert users of the use of cookies and allow users to refuse or accept cookie placement on their devices. It also requires that site owners create a separate cookie policy apart from the site’s privacy policy. 

Under US law, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) enforces a host of privacy and data security laws and regulations, but does not require a separate cookie policy. But it’s best to create a separate cookie policy to stay on the safe side, and to display additional transparency for your users. 

There are a few tools available to set up cookie consent platforms, such as CookieFirst and Osano, which is open source. These tools help ensure that you stay on the right side of the law regarding your cookie usage inside and outside the US. 

Return Policies

If you deal in ecommerce, designing a clear return policy will be one of the most important tasks to get right. With the rise of Amazon, consumers increasingly expect hassle-free returns with clear expectations. If users can’t quickly grasp your return policy, they’ll find somewhere else to shop. According to a 2019 survey by UPS, 73% of shoppers said the overall returns experience impacted how likely they were to purchase from a retailer again. 

Offering a clear return policy shows that you have confidence in your product, which translates to trust for the user. Here are some best practices for creating a return/refund policy:

  • Set clear procedures for return or exchange, including postage, packaging, and order slip information.
  • Clarify whether you offer credit or refunds on returns.
  • Avoid terms like “you must,” “you are required,” and “we are not responsible for.”
  • Post your return policy in an easy-to-find area.
  • Have a contingency plan in case something goes wrong (something will go wrong).
  • Don’t copy and paste. Customize the policy to your business.

You can find return/refund policy templates on sites like TermsFeed, which allows you to customize your policy as needed. 

Terms & Conditions

A site’s terms and conditions page serves as the rulebook for your users and can be simple or wide-ranging, depending on your niche. The page explains what is or isn’t permitted and works as a legal contract between your site and its users, thereby protecting site owners against legal liability. Terms and conditions pages can cover such subjects as:

  • Intellectual Property
  • Copyright
  • Registration Requirements
  • Comment Policy 
  • Refund Policies
  • Shipping Policies
  • Termination Rights

Both Termly and TermsFeed offer easy, customizable terms & conditions pages for your site. 

Disclaimer

A disclaimer provides additional legal protection against any unforeseen issues by allowing you to disclaim content published on your site. Disclaimers are particularly important for blogs, forums, or sites where user-submitted content is used, and can also protect site owners against content linked from the site.

Disclaimers should be tailored to your industry or niche, and cover any potential issues that may arise. For example, if your site features health advice, a disclaimer would make clear that the content is used for educational and information purposes only and that the publisher is not a medical or health professional.

Termsfeed offers a free disclaimer generator, along with Termly, and many others.

Creating a Policy of Trust

It may seem like these legal issues won’t impact your website, but they’re much more common than you think. Don’t wait until disaster strikes before you get yourself protected, because there’s no telling what tomorrow can bring.

In addition to keeping yourself in the clear, creating these policy pages help you establish clear expectations with your users. This helps develop a relationship of trust that translates into more buy-in and, ultimately, more business. Trust remains one of the most crucial factors in a business relationship. Policy pages show that you’re willing to put your cards on the table in exchange for your user’s trust.
Always strive to be clear and transparent with your policy pages. Your users expect to find them in your site’s footer, so it’s best to meet those expectations. And while you should feel good and highlight the policies you’re proud of, be careful not to over-promise. One easy solution is the Trustmark from DigitalTrust, which gives you a platform to highlight your best policies in order to give your customers a good sense of transparency and trust.