18 December 2020
The legal agreements of your website or mobile app govern the relationship between your company and your users.
They should be made aware of the changes you're going to make to your legal agreements and how these changes would affect them and their accounts with your website or mobile app.
This is important.
An update notice give users the chance to opt-out or close their accounts if they don't agree with the changes.
Companies are making changes to their legal agreements for a variety of reasons: to make them more streamlined or readable, to be more descriptive, to inform users about new functionality of the website or mobile app, to adhere to legal requirements of new laws such as the GDPR and so on.
Regardless of the reason for the change, the updates to your legal agreements should be announced to your users before they become effective.
In any of the above, the changes in a legal agreement can be substantial to users and it might affect their rights.
It's important how you get your users to agree to your original agreements as well as your updates. This is related to the browsewrap vs. clickwrap distinction:
A clickwrap agreement is an enforceable agreement, while a browsewrap agreement isn't.
Two court cases - Specht vs. Netscape and Zappos Inc. Customer Data Security Breach Litigation - give more information on why:
Not providing an update notice about upcoming changes to your legal agreements is similar to a browsewrap agreement: if the user isn't aware of the changes, the user can argue that she/he couldn't have agreed to the new terms because the terms weren't presented properly.
Providing a notice that you'll update your legal agreements isn't limited to only a few agreements, but to any agreements that governs the relationship between you and users:
Email is the most popular method used to provide notice, but this requires you to have the email address of your users. If you do use email to inform users about the changes, make sure to:
Elance provided a notification that eight of their legal agreements will be changed. The email contained links to the updated sections of the agreements and it even summarized each section to provide a really neat overview.
Elance also stated when the updates were going to take effect:
As you can see, Elance outlined every change very well, from users' obligations to indemnities and disputes.
Here are a few tips:
Other places that you can use to announce the updates are:
Regardless of what kind of legal agreement you'll update, these are the most strategic places where you can place a notification about upcoming changes to your legal agreements:
A top bar placed across all your web pages that inform users about the changes is the most popular tactic but make sure to link to a page where users can find more information.
This kind of top bar is similar to the method used by companies that must comply with the EU Cookies Directive:
Because most SaaS apps involve some version of an account dashboard, you can use the dashboard to properly notify users about any upcoming changes.
DigitalOcean, for example, updated its Terms of Service and used the dashboard section of its user accounts to notify them about the change:
If your business is only done through a mobile app and not through a website, you're still going to have agreements for that mobile app which will need to be updated at some point.
Follow the same practices as website owners to provide notice to users whenever you need to update the agreements.
When Airbnb updated its Terms of Service, the notification wasn't only through email but through its mobile app as well:
Users were required to check the "I agree to the updated Terms" button and then click the "Accept" before they could continue to Airbnb:
The GDPR gives your users far more rights when it comes to how their personal data is handled. One of the key aspects of the GDPR is its push for transparency.
A huge part of being transparent is sending notices to your users that let them know about any updates and changes you've made or will be making in response to the GDPR.
You likely noticed a huge amount of GDPR-related emails from companies earlier in 2018, letting you know that Privacy Policies and Terms and Conditions had been updated all over the place - like this one from Avira:
Some of these notices will give users the option to opt out of having their personal data collected, or at least tell them how to do so.
For example, here's a GDPR Privacy Notice that lets users either agree to allow cookies or make a number of edits and adjustments to cookie settings:
Some notices, as with repermission campaign emails (emails used to collect records of consent to email your users), give users the option to give consent for something (or not consent by not taking an action):
GDPR notices can be as basic as other update notices and simply let users know in a short sentence that a policy has been updated for the GDPR:
Always provide a link to the updated policy, a brief summary of what has been changed and how:
In the email, App Annie mentioned when the updates would take effect and gave users the chance to opt out if they do not wish to be bound by the new terms. The notification itself wasn't lengthy, but App Annie provided links to the legal agreements that were about to be changed.
Contact information was placed at the end of the email for if a user wanted to contact the company for questions regarding the changes.
Twitter engaged in an informative campaign to get the word out about its new Terms of Service agreement.
As you can see from the screenshot below, Twitter notified users that the changes were made in light of a new feature that allows users to buy merchandise within Twitter:
Twitter added new provisions in its legal agreement about the following:
When Bing Ads updated its Terms and Conditions agreement, the Bing Ads Support Team sent emails to all Bing Ads customers announcing these updates. The email included a summary of each major change of the legal agreements:
The email makes it clear that the Terms and Conditions agreement was updated. The email gives a summary of the changes, but also why the changes were needed:
Enter your email address where you'd like your policy sent, select translation versions and click "Generate."
You need to inform your users whenever you make updates to your policies and legal agreements.
Do so through emails, website banners, mobile app pop-up windows and any other way that can get the message across successfully to your users. Don't forget to link your updated agreements to your update notice.
This article is not a substitute for professional legal advice. This article does not create an attorney-client relationship, nor is it a solicitation to offer legal advice.