A guide to website terms and conditions

Editor’s note: We asked legal expert Kerry Gibbs to help clarify some of the key points about terms and conditions!

If your small business has its own website then you’ve made a great start! You can now begin to promote your enterprise and sell your products and services online. However, you must remember to incorporate a Terms and Conditions (T&Cs) agreement so that people will feel secure when they are visiting your site. Although such an agreement is not required by law, it is in your best interests to ensure that you protect your business as well as your web visitors and customers.

What is a Terms and Conditions Agreement?

Also known as Terms of Service (ToS), Terms of Use (ToU) and Disclaimers, the Terms and Conditions agreement usually sets out a list of provisions and specifications that people must follow when visiting your website. Put simply, the T&Cs are the rules and regulations they must abide by when using your online facility.

Who needs it?

All businesses, regardless of size, should include a T&Cs agreement on their websites as long as they have an online presence.

Why is it important?

A website T&Cs agreement is crucial because it serves as a legally binding contract between you and your web visitors. According to this article, it should set out the responsibilities of both parties in order to prevent any abuse. It should also detail what each party can expect from the agreement as well as the rights of customers. In summary, the T&Cs agreement can help ensure that both your business and your visitors are protected in the event of a dispute arising.

What to Include in Your Terms and Conditions

When drafting your website’s terms and conditions, there are some vital clauses and sections you must include to ensure that you cover all bases. Let’s take a look at some of these essential clauses.

1. Acceptance of Terms

Web visitors must accept your website T&Cs agreement for it to be effective and legally binding. Therefore, this section should inform people that by using your site, they are agreeing to comply with the terms and conditions you have outlined. They can give their agreement during their sign-up or login. You can also incorporate an “I agree” checkbox that users can click on to express their compliance.

2. Limitation of Liability

The Limitation of Liability clause will protect your business should users attempt to take legal action against you for any damages incurred due to, for example, viruses on your website or a shutdown/failure. This section must make it clear that you will not be responsible for any damages that result from the use of your site. Although it is only a remote possibility, you could even stipulate that using your site comes with a risk.

3. Privacy Policy

According to law, business websites must have a Privacy Policy. Indeed, not including one can put you at risk of a legal challenge. It is also vital that you reassure users that you will protect their privacy and let them know how you are going to store and use their personal information.

4. Rights and Ownership

Remember, whenever people visit your website, they are accessing your intellectual property, such as your logo, trademark and web content. For this reason, you should include a clause that outlines your rights and ownership details to ensure that users will not be able to use your intellectual property without your licence or permission. At the same time, if a problem does occur, you will be able to file an infringement claim against violators and prevent them from accessing your site in the future.

5. Payment Terms

If you require visitors to pay before they can access your website, you must include a Payment Terms clause in your T&Cs. This will give you the power to terminate their right of access if they fail to make the necessary payment. When drawing up your T&Cs agreement, make sure you explain how and when visitors should pay (monthly, quarterly or annually) as this will help prevent any confusion.

6. Termination

In this section, you must let visitors know that you can withdraw their permission to access your website at any time and without prior notice. Make sure you specify the conditions in which this could occur; for example, for inappropriate behaviour, site misuse and using your intellectual property without permission. However, if your site does not allow any interaction between users, you can use a general termination clause instead.

7. Cookies

If your website uses cookies, you will need to insert a clause that describes how you are going to use them to store your visitors’ information. You must also explain to people that they can decline and disable your cookies in their browser settings.

Conclusion

Although it is not a legal requirement, it is advisable to incorporate a Terms and Conditions agreement on your website as it can play a vital role in keeping your business safe and free from any liability. At the same time, the agreement will protect your visitors from abuse and ensure the speedy resolution of disputes. When drafting your T&Cs, you should include clauses and provisions that will fully protect both your website and your business. While you can use free templates, it is much better to create T&Cs that are specific to your own particular business operations.

Author’s bio

Kerry Gibbs is a legal expert at BEB Contracts and Legal Services. BEB provides small to medium-sized businesses with legal and contractual support.

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