Ever browsed over Terms and Conditions and just accepted them without thinking it through, just so you could continue to use the website or purchase online? We have all done that!
But what are they all about? Who first thought about publishing them and why? Should we publish them on our website?
Businesses started using digital channels to promote their products in the early 1990s, with the first clickable banner appearing in 1993, and by 1994 businesses were migrating to digital marketing.
Soon businesses started transacting online and collecting payments and personal information and needed to think about the safe-keeping of consumer personal information, as well as their own protection against users.
And that’s when terms and conditions came into being. Let’s take a closer look at what T&Cs are and how they impact your business.
Q: Do I need a Terms and Conditions on my Website?
A: Technically no, you don’t need a terms and conditions page on your website. But, while T&Cs aren’t required by state or federal laws, having them on your website is good business practice. Terms and Conditions will help you in the event of any legal dispute or copyright claim on your website, as these are legally binding agreements.
What is a Terms and Conditions Agreement?
We have all seen the Terms and Conditions published and probably agree to them without carefully reading through them all. But what do they mean to your business?
In short, they protect your business from unwanted consequences or legal liabilities.
Terms and Conditions are put together to ensure parties know their rights and are protected upon engaging in business.
They are to be considered legal and enforceable if in accordance with state or federal contract laws.
These Terms and Conditions contain contractual rights, obligations, and guidelines that all parties involved are obliged to follow in an agreement and set the stage for important boundaries that parties should be aware of and must be observed.
What are the Main Elements of a Terms and Conditions Agreement?
Of all the pages on your website, you may consider this to be the most uninspiring one, but be sure to create it as though it were being held up in a court because if you find yourself in a legal battle, you will need this agreement in your defense.
Depending on your type of business and the contractual guidelines you would like to implement, you may find that many businesses have similar basics that they build their Terms and Conditions on.
Here’s a list of main elements to consider when drafting your T&C’s:
- Company name and website owner
- Trademark and Copyright notice
- Permitted Use statement
- Intellectual Property Policy
- Third-Party Information use
- Registration requirements such as passwords or other security checks
If your website is an eCommerce site, then you should include the following as an addition:
- Data Protection: State how the client’s data will be used, where it will be stored, and how it will be protected.
- Payment Indication: Set out when or how payments are to be made.
- Delivery, Returns, and Refunds: Cover shipping and related costs or shipping damages, policies on refunds, and regulations or timelines for returns.
- Product Information and Warranties: Don’t forget to include information on product warranties, guarantees, and so on.
Lastly, your policy should have a clear acknowledgment statement for readers to confirm they have read and agree to your set out Terms and Conditions.
Why Does Someone Need a Terms and Conditions?
Your website should be viewed as the online gateway to your business.
We have seen above that Terms and Conditions are seemingly critical to protect your business from potential liabilities or any disputes.
Back in 1994, a company in America was selling off detailed personal information of its subscribers to budding marketers without the consent of its subscribers.
Can you imagine what trouble you would be in if your company unknowingly permitted that in this day and age? What would you do if you were a consumer who discovered that the company blundered and this was happening with your info?
While it is not mandatory to have them, here are some reasons why you should consider having website Terms and Conditions.
1. Own Your Content
You are the owner of your website and its content (besides the content that you will state is from other content generators), so wouldn’t you want to protect the content you spent hours working on?
Commonly referred to as Intellectual Property, it’s a law that states that the website content is yours and protects you against users reproducing your content or using it for purposes other than personal, non-commercial use.
It could also show when you have licenses or the rights to sell any third-party products.
2. Prevent Abusers and Terminate Accounts
There are bizarre web users in the world, and not everyone who visits your site has good intentions.
Your Terms and Conditions help set out guidelines and rules for users to follow when they access your website.
Clearly state what happens to users who go against your rules, such as using abusive language, sharing defamatory content, spamming other users, or attempting to spoil your site with malware.
In most cases, you could ban such mischievous users and go on to delete their accounts if they have registered on your site.
3. Limit Liability
This is quite an important one.
This clause lets users know that you can not be held accountable for errors on your website, including inaccurate information.
Suppose your website has links leading to other websites; your clause should state a disclaimer of liability to the content from these external sites.
Avoid being held responsible for content on your site or associated external links because you may think it is accurate at the time of publishing, but things could change, and you find yourself in trouble.
What Happens if You Don’t Have a Terms and Conditions Agreement?
Are Terms and Conditions required for a website? Well, no. It is not a requirement to have website Terms and Conditions but so far, we have seen the importance of having them.
Depending on your business type, or mobile app, you will need consumer protection and business protection accordingly in order to be effectively covered.
Online businesses, be wary! A poorly penned T&C page that does not completely cover the important aspects of your business could land you up with a damaged reputation or worse – lost revenue from false claims or returns.
Legal action is another example of an outcome you don’t want that results from not having T&Cs covering your business.
You can avoid many misunderstandings by simply adding T&Cs to your site or app. If your site changes regularly, then don’t forget to update your T&C’s as well. Someone will hold you accountable according to your current published policy.
How to Add a Terms and Conditions Agreement to Your Website
Now that we have settled that your website needs a Terms and Conditions agreement, the next step is to create one.
Most policies have similar elements to them but you definitely shouldn’t cut and paste from another website and fail to customize them to your own business and website needs, especially if you are an eCommerce site.
Although they look pretty simple and basic, Terms and Conditions are intended to meet complex scenarios and are legally binding so that they protect you and your business.
Before we look at the process of creating and adding T&C’s on your site, here are a few best practices to keep in mind:
- Avoid Templates: This policy should be kept up-to-date and matches your specific business needs, which is why a simple template can not cut it.
- Keep Language Simple: You may be tempted to use all the big sophisticated words that other websites use, but keep it simple and easy to understand, even if you think no one reads it.
You may not be tech-savvy and think that it takes a lawyer to draft up your Terms and Conditions.
But, there’s actually an easy and more affordable way to create and add your policy to your website following these simple steps using a terms and conditions generator like what Termly offers.
Step #1: Go to Termly’s Terms and Conditions Generator and select the type of website you are building or have, such as eCommerce, website, mobile app, or any other you see fit. Enter User Information.
Step #3: Specify prohibited activities – this gives you the chance to select or type out your specific prohibited activities for using your website, whether users can contribute content/reviews to your pages, the use of third-party websites and content links, and if you own any other sites that are linked.
Step #4: Start with an indication of how you will resolve client disputes, then on to liability limitation, whether or not your industry has specific compliances that you need to follow and any other legal clauses that need to be mentioned.
Step #5: This is the final step and requires you to state governing laws and company contact details such as name, contact details, physical address, VAT number, and finally, when you would like to publish the policy.
Click on the “Publish” button and wait as the generator creates your Terms and Conditions for you!
For extra protection on your website, consider posting an “active agreement” which encourages users to accept your Terms and Conditions before moving on to purchase or viewing further pages. If you need to understand Termly better, please read this Termly review I wrote to understand the platform fully.
Do not assume that your T&C’s are never read! Some consumers really scrutinize these before accepting, and you want to make sure you have constructed them well, covering yourself adequately so that no one slips through loopholes to put you in trouble.
You may consider getting professional help if you think you are getting it wrong.
Ideally, you want your Terms and Conditions to be clear to understand and have a link to this document on every page of your website.
So what’s the answer to the ‘Do I need a Terms and Conditions on my website’ question?
In general, your website or mobile app should have up-to-date Terms and Conditions published, especially if you are an eCommerce site that handles sensitive information.