Tips on how to notify users after a change on the Terms of Use.

Tips on how to notify users after a change on the Terms of Use.

7 months ago
João Bruno Soares
7 minutes

Terms of use are an essential part of many websites, especially regarding LGPD. Despite being frequently overlooked, Terms of Use are, quite literally, the contract established between you and the company offering that product or service in a digital manner. Therefore, not only their development but also any eventual changes require careful consideration.

This care pertains to both the situations in which such changes can or should be applied and the manner of alteration and its consequences. In the following text, you'll find an explanation of how each of these aspects works and how to ensure the validity of your terms, as well as compliance with LGPD, GDPR, CCPA, PIPEDA, POPIA, among others.

What Are the Key Topics Addressed in Terms of Use?

Before delving into why and how to make changes to the Terms of Use, let's first briefly review some of the main chapters/topics typically found in any standard document.

Based on AdOpt's own Terms of Use, the text is divided as follows:

1. Object

2. Features

3. Contracting and Service Provision

4. Term

5. Remuneration

6. Service Interruption

7. Responsibilities

8. Processing of Personal Data

Here's a brief summary of what each section covers:

  1. Object: Identification of the involved parties and detailed description of the services provided, including their characteristics and operational definitions.

  2. Features: In the case of software like AdOpt's, this section lists the features involved and provides detailed information within the plans.

  3. Contracting and Service Provision: Description of the processes and necessary details for service contracting.

  4. Term: Delivery frequency and/or product/service availability after/during purchase.

  5. Remuneration: Explanation of how payments will be made, including pricing, payment deadlines, and conditions.

  6. Service Interruption: Explanation of situations where service interruption is prescribed, necessary, and justified, as well as the events that may lead to interruption.

  7. Responsibilities: Clarification of the responsibilities of both parties upon accepting the terms. On one side, the provider commits to providing the service, and the customer commits to making payments and using the system/platform as necessary for service delivery.

  8. Processing of Personal Data: Definition of the roles of data controller vs. data processor within the processes established by the contract. If data is collected, the legal basis used is specified, along with the responsibilities arising from the operation.

  9. General Provisions: Declarations that position the contract geographically, establish conditions for possible updates, provide guidance in case one of the parties breaches the contract, and specify the jurisdiction.

Why Change the Terms of Use?

Changes to these documents, although often overlooked, are necessary whenever there is a significant alteration in the content description. Aspects such as the nature of the service or product delivered by the company, conditions of public service, official data, and now, mandatory aspects under LGPD, all necessitate changes.

Both LGPD (General Data Protection Law) and other applicable regulations specify aspects related to data collection, processing, and treatment that may be part of the service or product and, therefore, must be included in the terms of use.

Furthermore, changes are often required to align the content of the terms of use with the reality of the brand. After all, these terms should reflect the company's actual situation and not be a work of fiction.

Otherwise, there's a risk of non-compatibility between the website's terms of use and its reality, services, rules, and regulations that apply to it. In essence, it renders the terms useless.

Aspects of our lives are constantly changing, and this is also true when it comes to brands, how they operate, and the rules they are subject to.

Since the terms of use relate to these matters, any changes in them should also reflect on them to ensure they remain valid and relevant, fulfilling their role in relation to the brand.

When Is It Necessary to Change the Terms of Use?

In general terms, changes should be made whenever one of these aspects is identified:

  • Alteration in the site's mode of operation.
  • Addition or modification of available services and products.
  • Legal changes affecting the rules a site can apply, as well as the duties and rights it imposes.
  • Inadequacy between the terms and the reality of the brand (such as its characteristics, offerings, and operations), or between the terms and current laws (such as LGPD or the Consumer Code, for example).

Therefore, there are various reasons that can lead to changes in the terms of use. All of them are relevant, especially to maintain the validity of this document and its applicability.

Do I Need Authorization to Change the Terms of Use?

Yes! The terms are among the documents that clarify to the public what the rules are in that space, meaning on the website.

They join the privacy policy and the cookie notice to promote transparency with the user. While the terms indicate the applicable rules, rights, and duties, the policy pertains to privacy and data usage, which cookies are also part of.

All these documents are important because they assist in complying with LGPD regulations. Transparency is at its core.

Therefore, it wouldn't make sense for changes to the terms of use to occur without the consent of the user, right? It's not necessarily about authorization; after all, it's up to the user to decide whether to accept the terms, thereby maintaining access to the site's services and making their information available or to forfeit this and withdraw their consent.

In conclusion: whenever there are changes in rules and policies that affect users and data subjects, they must be notified to express their acceptance or rejection of the new rules and guidelines.

That's why changes are always announced for a future date, giving users ample time to read and understand the changes.

My terms of use include a clause indicating the possibility of changing them, do I still need to notify users?

Once again, the answer is yes. Despite many terms and policies including the possibility of changes, it's not a good idea to change them without any notification and obtaining the consent of the data subject.

After all, this would be a unilateral change. Since terms of use function as an online contract, this isn't a favorable decision and can be seen as abusive. Likewise, it goes against LGPD, where transparency and consent are essential.

How to Notify Your Users of Changes to the Terms of Use?

It's essential that you inform your users and customers of changes to your privacy policies and terms. Here are some tips on how to do it effectively.

Notification by Message

One of the ways to notify your users of changes to the terms of use on your website is through message notifications. In this case, you can opt for email or other communication methods provided by the data subject (SMS, etc.).

In this scenario, inform users about the changes and provide access to the new terms. Similarly, ensure that when users access the document, they have the opportunity to indicate whether they accept these changes (in the famous "I declare that I have read and accept the terms of use" checkbox).

Additionally, make sure that this type of consent for changes is identifiable and properly archived as evidence.

Notification upon Website Access

Another option is to have a banner that indicates changes to the terms of use appear as soon as the user accesses your website. In this scenario, it's advisable to prevent the user from navigating the page until they have read and agreed (or disagreed) with the new terms.

This practice is typically used when the new terms are already in effect, as it can have a more significant impact on the user experience. However, it's essential for both scenarios.

Beware! Silence Does Not Imply Consent

Lastly, our final tip when changing the terms of use is to be careful regarding silence. Unlike what we often assume, silence does not imply consent. It's essential to obtain explicit consent from the data subject regarding changes to the terms.

Help the Visitor Read the New Terms of Use!

Not all of your visitors, if not the minority, have the patience and interest to read your Terms of Use. Yes, this is concerning given its importance, but it's a fact we observe daily.

So, since you'll already have to notify users of changes, a good practice is to highlight the main changes and how they might affect the user so they can quickly grasp the key points, accelerating their understanding and, consequently, the collection of their acceptance of the terms.

So, since you'll already have to notify users of changes, a good practice is to highlight the main changes and how they might affect the user so they can quickly grasp the key points, accelerating their understanding and, consequently, the collection of their acceptance of the terms.

Do you have any questions or work as a Data Protection Officer and can contribute with these tips?

Please let us know how we can improve; we're always open to feedback!


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