What Is a Disclaimer Statement?

anyaberkut/iStock/GettyImages

A disclaimer statement, sometimes called a disclaimer letter, serves as a warning that can protect your company from potential legal issues. It can also educate your customers about the limitations or risks involved with the use of your company's information, products or services. This statement, which can be mandatory or voluntary, addresses your company's liability and can help prevent misunderstandings with users, but there are also some limitations to understand.

Types of disclaimer statements range from those addressing responsibility and content accuracy to those regarding company financial data and online communications.

TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)

A disclaimer statement offers your business some protection in case users file legal claims against you for some information, product or service your company has provided. It can also apply to the terms of online communications or clarify the source and use of company information.

Disclaimer Statement Definition

Often contained on your company's website, advertisements, product packaging, communications and legal documents, a disclaimer statement serves to help protect your company in the event another party tries to pursue legal action against you. You'll often use a disclaimer statement when you provide legal, financial, safety or health advice or information or when your company financially gains from an activity associated with a third party.

This statement typically spells out the extent to which your company is liable and often tells users that use of the information provided is at their own risk or that the company otherwise makes no guarantees. It may also clarify from where information comes or specify a relationship with a third party, such as an affiliate.

Mandatory vs. Voluntary Disclaimer Statements

A disclaimer statement can be mandatory by law, which is the case when you sell products such as medications and cleaning products that contain harmful substances. This also applies to general product safety since companies must legally disclose risks involved in usage as well as due to laws regarding truthful advertising.

For example, if your company sells a toxic cleaning product, you might write your disclaimer in a sentence or two on the product label to state the known dangers of using the product and any instructions on safe usage. Such a statement should also mention specific toxic ingredients or provide warnings about mixing the product with other substances.

In other cases, you may voluntarily create a disclaimer statement simply for the good of your clients or customers. This is useful when you provide information that some users may misunderstand or misuse. For example, you might choose to advertise affiliates' products and link to them on your company blog. Since customers might mistake the information and products as coming from your company, a disclaimer sample for the website might state that your business isn't held responsible for the content, products or services that these affiliates provide.

Disclaimer Statement Benefits

A disclaimer that discloses the risks of using a product, service or information and explains appropriate use can help keep your customers safe from harm and reduce misunderstandings. At the same time, it can provide some legal protection for your company as long as you didn't do anything illegal.

Disclosing the source of information from a third party, like an affiliate, can also prevent reputational issues in the event that the information turns out to be incorrect or undesirable to users. Lastly, disclaimers can help protect your intellectual property when it comes to copyrights and fair usage for the unique content and media you provide.

Legal Limitations of Disclaimer Statements

On the other hand, the effectiveness of disclaimer statements and their implications legally can vary. Since customers need to actually pay attention to your statements and follow the information and instructions to benefit, you may still have customer complaints or even have some try to take legal action against you even with the disclaimers you've provided.

For disclaimers to be legally enforceable, your users will usually need to consent to them voluntarily through a waiver or written disclaimer.

This limitation means that the conditions of this consent and your company's liability can be hard to determine in some cases. For example, it's easy to prove consent if your company's website users have to agree to a terms and conditions statement that contains the consent statements. However, if you have them hidden on your website's footer or at the bottom of an email, your users don't have a way to clearly consent to the disclaimers.

Responsibility Disclaimer Statement

This type of general disclaimer relates to general problems that could occur with those who use your mobile app or company website. It usually states that your company isn't responsible for actions that happen to users who use information you present or who take advantage of your services.

You'll find this helpful when you provide health, legal or financial advice that users might implement in ways beyond your control. For example, a user could potentially respond to your company's post about a specific stock price rising and end up losing money when the price unexpectedly falls shortly afterward.

Expression of Views Disclaimer Statement

When your company allows guests to post on its website or social media platforms, you might use an expression of views disclaimer to clarify that the ideas and claims a guest makes don't represent your company's stance on the issue. You'll often find this useful when the information is controversial, potentially incomplete, likely to offend or may otherwise contain incorrect facts.

Performance Disclaimer Statement

This type of disclaimer might appear in your financial statements or website and serves to explain that your company's past performance may not represent future performance. You might spell out events that can affect your company's financial standing, such as the emergence of competitors and market changes, and declare that the value of your company's shares isn't guaranteed to stay stable.

Third-Party Information Disclaimer Statement

You may use this kind of disclaimer when your company participates in affiliate programs or posts customer testimonials online. You might clarify that the links and products come from affiliates and that you're not responsible for their products or services. You might also mention whether you compensate your customers for their reviews and explain that users may have a different experience from those that customers have described.

Product Safety Disclaimer Statement

This type of disclaimer includes product warning labels and warning statements included in manuals and instructions. It presents the risks of using the product along with instructions to avoid injury. It may also disclose harmful substances or interactions if applicable.

Content Usage Disclaimer Statement

You'll use content usage disclaimers to notify users of copyrighted or proprietary information — such as your company's logo, company data and website content — as well as to explain the terms of fair usage. This serves as a way to legally protect your company in case someone passes off your intellectual property as their own and clarifies any information uses that can be duplicated or otherwise used for their unique purposes.

Content Accuracy and Completeness Disclaimer Statement

This disclaimer comes in handy when you produce content where the facts can change often, such as with scientific or financial topics. It explains that your company may not be able to update information when it changes or that the content shown may be incomplete or have errors due to changes.

Communication Privacy Disclaimer Statement

You'll likely use this kind of disclosure statement as a footer in your company emails, possibly to both staff and customers. Usually, you'll include a disclaimer when confidential information should not be shared with others or when the communication might be confused with a contractual obligation or business deal.

References

About the Author

Ashley Donohoe started writing professionally about business topics in 2010. Having eight years experience running all aspects of her small business, she is knowledgeable about the daily issues and decisions that business owners face. She also has earned a Master of Business Administration degree with a leadership and strategy concentration from Western Governors University. Some other places featuring her business writing include JobHero, LoveToKnow, PocketSense, Chron and Study.com.