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Do I Need a Medical Disclaimer for My Website?

James Chiodo, Certified Information Privacy Professional CIPP/US

If you are a business owner, it is more than likely that you have a website. However, the wide exposure the Internet brings to your business also exposes you to increased liability risk.

Having the appropriate disclaimers and terms of use on your site is important. Not only do correct legal provisions help protect you from liability, but also they keep you in compliance with the Federal Trade Commission and other government agencies.

While it is essential to have a privacy policy and terms of use agreement on all sites, whether you need a medical disclaimer will depend on what type of website you have.

If your website sells any kind of health-related products, such as vitamins, or gives advice about fitness or physical or mental health, you should consider having a medical disclaimer plainly posted on your website. In addition, attorneys generally recommend including copies of your website disclaimers with all orders you send out to your customers.

While posting a medical disclaimer on your website will not protect you from all liability, it will help to minimize your risks. Whatever you are selling or giving advice about, you must make sure that it is made very clear to the consumer exactly what they can and cannot expect your advice or product to do.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) acts in the interests of the consumer. Their goal is to prevent deceptive acts and practices under the Federal Trade Commission Act, Section 5. Under this Act, a deceptive act or practice involves information that is likely to mislead customers and affect that customer’s behavior in making decisions about a product or service.

The FTC also states that a disclaimer must be “clear and conspicuous” so consumers can make an informed decision when purchasing products or services. A medical disclaimer is your first line of defense in ensuring that your customer is very clear on what they can expect from your products or services.

If dealing with a disgruntled customer was not enough, the FTC imposes harsh penalties for websites that are deemed misleading. Penalties for posting a deceptive ad can include a cease and desist order requiring you to immediately take down your advertisement. If you fail to do so, daily fines are imposed that run to thousands of dollars. You may also be subject to substantial civil penalties, not to mention attorney’s fees and administrative costs in dealing with this type of problem.

Having the appropriate legal disclaimers on your website helps to minimize your liability and gives you added peace of mind.

Using our attorney-drafted medical disclaimer is a small investment that can save you money in the long run.

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