*Co-Authored by Alexis Wheeler, Ena Lebel, and Gretchen Moore

During this challenging time, public agencies and municipalities are still required to abide by the Right-to-Know Law (RTKL), and to the extent possible, respond to requests for public records.  However, the health and safety of the community, the board, and employees takes precedence under the Governor’s Emergency Declaration.  Additionally, due process for the parties is extremely important, so if the agency is not able to respond to a request in a fulsome manner, it is better to delay a response than give a less than adequate response.

Here are some best practices for adhering to RTKL and responding to requests for public records right now:

Notifications

Deadlines

Urgent Requests Only

Appeals

These matters are complicated, and the situation will continue to evolve.  If you have any questions, we suggest that you first consult your Solicitor.

Moreover, our public sector attorneys at SMGG are always available to serve as a resource, particularly at this time.  Feel free to contact Gretchen Moore at gmoore@smgglaw.com, Kathy Clark at kclark@smgglaw.com, Alexis Wheeler at awheeler@smgglaw.com, or Alan Shuckrow at ashuckrow@smgglaw.com.

Then you need to think about your Terms of Service, Privacy Policy and Endorsements.

Many businesses are almost exclusively run through a website.  As a business owner you may have already thought about the legal issues surrounding customers making purchases through your website.  However, in addition to protecting yourself for these online purchases, there are some important legal disclaimers that every website should include.

Terms of Service

Website Terms of Service or Terms of Use are usually found at the bottom of the website and most people do not read them.  However, the Terms of Service act as a contract between you, the business owner, and your customers (or “users”).

The goals of the Terms of Service are to:

It is important that the Terms of Service reflect the particularities of your business and website.  Therefore, careful drafting is critical to ensure that your business is protected.

 Privacy Policy

Often hand in hand with a website’s Terms of Service will be its Privacy Policy.  As a business owner, a Privacy Policy is essential to protect the business from claims of using their personal information without their knowledge.  A website Privacy Policy notifies your customers/users about the business’ practices concerning the collection, storage, use, and disclosure of information, including personal information.  A well-drafted Privacy Policy will reassure your customers that you are not misusing their personal information.

Unfortunately, there is no standard approach to a Privacy Policy.  Since every website and business collects information and tracks it differently, it is important to specifically reflect your business’ methods in your Privacy Policy.  Additionally, there are specific state and federal laws and regulations that may be relevant to your business and your website and that should be included in your Privacy Policy.  Your Privacy Policy should also match the organizations own internal policies and procedures in relation to the handling of all company and personal information.

Endorsements and Testimonials

If your business relies on customer reviews and endorsements to get more sales, then you need to be mindful of the rules around posting endorsements online.  The Federal Trade Commission has released guides related to endorsements.  The guides are meant to ensure that endorsements are honest and not misleading, i.e. “an endorsement must reflect the honest opinion of the endorser and can’t be used to make a claim that the product’s marketer couldn’t legally make.”[1]  The FTC has specific rules about the required disclosures around an endorsement.  In particular, before posting a customer testimonial, you should obtain that customer’s consent.  As a business owner, you also have to be wary of only posting testimonials where the customer has had better than the typical consumer experience.  Again, careful wording around the posting of your customer’s endorsements will protect your business.  Furthermore, your business may be subject to specific industry rules related to the posting and content of customer endorsements and testimonials.

If you are in need of Terms of Service, Privacy Policy and Endorsements for your website, SMGG can help.  Please contact Ena M. Lebel of Strassburger McKenna Gutnick & Gefsky in Pittsburgh at elebel@smgglaw.com or (412) 281-5423, or any other member of our Business Services team.

 

[1] https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/ftcs-endorsement-guides-what-people-are-asking

Etsy, Kickstarter, Toms, and Method. What do these prominent companies have in common? They are all “benefit corporations” (or “B-corps”) focused on a “triple bottom line” that includes people, planet and profits.

What is a B-Corp?

Benefit corporations have many of the same characteristics of a traditional business corporation, but are subject to new requirements with respect to purpose, accountability, and transparency.

These requirements include:

Why Should My Company Be a B-Corp?[1]

How Does My Company Become a Benefit Corporation?

[1] Cite http://benefitcorp.net/businesses/why-become-benefit-corp