Stay law-savvy using social media for business
Written by: Kristine Biason
Social media has become an increasingly popular platform for businesses and entrepreneurs to advertise and sell their products. If you run your own business, the advantages of social media are clear. However, it can be easy to fall foul of the law unintentionally through what you post online. Below are some law-savvy guidelines to using social media for your business.
1. Don’t mislead
Australian Consumer Law (ACL) has strict rules regulating businesses making false or misleading claims to consumers which apply to print, social media or otherwise. This includes advertisements and any statements made about the standard, quality, value, grade, composition, style or model of any goods or services. To avoid this, consider whether the overall impression created by your social media post is false or inaccurate. Make sure you've also done research to support any claims you make. If you tweet that your business is the first company to sell vegan desserts, ensure that you can prove it – otherwise, the tweet can be considered false, misleading or deceptive. Similarly, making false claims or attempting to ‘pass off’ as another business is also unlawful conduct that can expose you to legal action.
2. Don’t let others mislead
The ACCC have ruled that businesses are responsible for false, misleading and deceptive testimonials on social media platforms, even if they were made by someone else. This includes posts or comments made by others that are visible on your social media pages and that you know to be misleading. In 2009, the Federal Court fined Allergy Pathway $7,500 for allowing false and misleading testimonials to remain on its Facebook and Twitter pages.
While you can respond to false, misleading or deceptive comments left on your page instead of removing them, this may not be enough to override the false impression the comments make. The ACCC recommends that it is safer to remove the comments completely. Regularly monitor your social media pages to remove the relevant comments.
Most social media platforms now have the ability for a business to establish personalised URLs, often by adding the name of their business to the end of the link, e.g. www.facebook.com/LegalVision. It is good practice to reserve the name that you can use on social media sites to protect your business and prevent someone else using or taking the name.
Trademarking it is the best way to protect your rights to your business name and logo. Be aware that if your name and logo are not trademarked, this may cause confusion amongst your consumers and may even allow another business to say you have violated their trademark.
4. Monitor your Employees
It is easy for frustrated employees to use social media to release their frustrations with their colleagues, or even with their boss. This can lead to potentially embarrassing situations for both parties. In some cases, however, these comments can also be unlawful if discriminatory or derogatory about an individual's ethnicity, sex or disability.
The best way to ensure your employees comply with necessary rules is to train them in how to engage with social networking sites both during and after work hours. It is also best practice to include a social media policy in your Employee Handbook and revised clauses in their Employee Agreements.
Importantly, if you are unsure, ask! Whether you are an employer who has questions about your employee's social media use, or you are an employee unsure of your rights, get in touch with our employment lawyers on 1300 544 755.
Contributed by: Kristine Biason
Kristine is a Lawyer and is part of LegalVision’s team of franchise lawyers. Her interest in business law was sparked when she became involved in the foundation of a niche publishing business in Germany. Kristine has a background in Media/Communications and law and had worked for the legal public sector before moving to Germany (and then coming back again).