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Got an online market place? Learn what legal documents you need

You’ve decided to create an online market place to connect consumers with service providers.  This means, essentially you are acting as a middle man.  That’s great, but the fact that your service is connecting people doesn’t mean it is all care and no responsibility. There are several legal documents you will need for legal protection.

Terms with the suppliers

Accurate Content When you allow people to advertise on your website, you essentially become an advertiser.  This means you have responsibility for all of the content published on the Site.  The main one being it needs to be correct and cannot be false or misleading.  You have two options, you can:

  1. research and confirm that the information you are given is true, or
  2. you can rely solely on the supplier.

Both are valid but still require some tight contract clauses to protect you from being exposed to publishing false or misleading content.

You may wish to have rules about the type of content that can or cannot published on the Site.  This is especially important to ensure you comply with certain advertising rules, and discrimination laws.

Intellectual property You also need permission to use the supplier’s intellectual property such as trademarks, branding and wording.   You may want rights to edit the content to suit your needs and to reject any content that does not fit with your brand or ethos.

Inclusions There will need to be clear expectations about what is included in your service, and explanations about how the market place will work.  For example, how does the content get published or removed?  How much visibility should the supplier expect?  Are they listed in alphabetical order or searchable by service offering or location?  You are providing a service to the suppliers so it should be clear exactly how that service works and what should be expected, especially if you are receiving payment.

As a service provider, you need to make it clear whether you are making any guarantees about how many inquiries the advertiser may or may not receive from listing with you.

Payment How will payment be made?  If you offer advertising on a subscription basis you need to set out how payment will occur, be properly authorised to make any direct debits and ensure that the termination process is fair.

Terms with consumers

Service clarity While you may not charge consumers for using your Site, you still need to make it clear what service is expected of you.  This includes clearly setting out the nature of your business as a ‘middle man’ and explaining your level of involvement with the suppliers.  For example, have you verified the content on the Site or not, and have the Suppliers undergone any checks by you at all in order to advertise with you.

Complaints management You should also make it clear as to whether consumers have a right to complain to you about a supplier listed on your Site.  What level of involvement will you take with any disputes and what outcome might they expect from you.  While you may be acting as a middle man, you are still offering a service to consumers so you cannot disclaim all responsibility.

Online reviews If you allow consumers to leave reviews or comments about a supplier, you will need  permission to publish those comments. This is especially true if you want to make edits or only publish comments that you approve.

You may wish to consider to bind the consumers to rules about the type of content that can be shown on the Site.  The laws about false and misleading statements apply equally to the content provided by consumers as well as that given to you for advertising purposes.

Privacy Policy

If your Site functions in a way where it collects information about consumers and passes that information to the suppliers, then a privacy policy is recommended.  If people are giving personal information to you, that you then use and disclose to someone else, they should be told exactly what happens with their information.

I have worked with quite a few on-line market places and would be pleased to assist you with your needs.  Book in a free 30 minute consultation now.

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