As a website owner, you need to include terms and conditions (T&Cs) page as legal protection for your business. The T&Cs are the provisions that will set out in clear terms the responsibility of each party, namely you and the customer. They will also specify the benefits that each party will gain from the transaction. Moreover, if a dispute should arise, the terms can settle any misunderstanding quickly and easily without having to resort to the courts.
Are T&Cs a legal requirement?
Most websites can operate without terms and conditions. However, incorporating them can help you reduce any potential liabilities. For instance, it is essential that you provide a clear policy regarding your customers’ rights. If you don’t, they may take too many liberties; this would benefit them but damage your business.
What should you include in your website’s terms and conditions?
For e-commerce platforms, The Ultimate Guide to Website Terms and Conditions recommends including suitable policies relating to your business processes, such as:
- The sales procedure
- How to place an order
- How to make a payment
- Delivery terms
- Cancellation terms
The terms will set the boundaries of what is acceptable to you and your customers. They will also make it crystal clear that their rights will be protected.
What type of protection does your site receive?
The T&Cs will come in handy in situations where a misunderstanding arises between you and a customer. In fact, you can avoid potential disputes by providing your customers with easy access to your terms and conditions.
What are the common mistakes you should avoid?
The first mistake many business owners make is not incorporating a terms and conditions page on their website. Another error to avoid is stealing or using another company’s T&Cs. There are various reasons why “borrowing” T&Cs is not advisable. For instance, they may be:
- No longer enforceable
- Completely unsuitable for your business model or process
Remember, it may not be easy to seek legal remedies if the terms are incompatible with your business processes.
Can you use templates for the terms and conditions?
It is perfectly legal to use templates – either paid for or free – for your T&Cs. However, these terms are often general and may not cover all the essential aspects of your online business. You may also need to include a particular wording that is only applicable to your website and business. If a dispute arises and you have no provision for it, your business may be vulnerable to a legal challenge. This is also one of the primary reasons why you need to customize your website’s terms and conditions.
Do T&Cs protect your copyrights?
Your T&Cs can cover possible copyright infringements; however, that may still not stop people from stealing your stuff. To prevent any problems, make sure your terms are specific about:
- Which parts of your website are copyrighted and which are not
- What your visitors can do with the data
These types of stipulations will enable you to determine whether there has been any copyright infringement. If there has been, you can quickly resolve the problem.
Can the T&Cs change your website offers or target audience?
No two websites or businesses are identical, even in the same industry. For example, some e-commerce sites can:
- Take payments directly
- Require a payment gateway such as PayPal
- Issue invoices while paying separately to the site
Your T&Cs can cover all these possible scenarios.
You may also need to include a variety of terms that will apply to all types of customers. In addition, your policies should comply with local legal requirements. For example, your T&Cs can include a legal provision regarding the rights of customers returning your items.
Are terms and conditions similar to terms of service and other legal notices?
How should the T&Cs be written?
The T&Cs are legally binding so you may need to use some technical jargon. However, it is essential that you write them in such a way that most readers will understand. Writing in plain English can reduce the potential for confusion and disputes.
Should you put all your website policies on a single page?
You can keep all of your terms and policies on the same page, possibly as links in the footer. However, it is probably better to keep the conditions separate. For instance, visitors searching for information about your data protection policy are unlikely to read through sections regarding invoicing or payments. Keeping these various documents separate will make it easier for readers to understand your T&Cs.
Are website T&Cs enforceable?
Yes, as long as they are clear and your website visitors can access them. However, the terms should conform to applicable consumer laws and fair clauses to make them legally enforceable.
How often should you update your T&Cs?
As your business continues to grow and evolve, it pays to check your website terms periodically. Laws covering your e-commerce site can also change at any time. This means it is vital that you make relevant changes to your terms when necessary. You could even conduct a review every few hours unless there is a significant change in the law or business process.
Terms and conditions are essential to any business, including e-commerce platforms. If your website has not yet incorporated T&Cs, then you need to do something about it. However, make sure your T&Cs are suitable for your business and industry. You can make use of templates but they may not cover all the specific requirements of your website. It is much better to develop your own terms and conditions as then you can tailor them to your business.
Kerry Gibbs is a legal expert at BEB Contract and Legal Services. BEB provides small to medium-sized businesses with legal and contractual support.