Any site that has any form of interaction with its users, whether eCommerce, blog, social media, or professional, should include a terms and conditions page within it. This article defines terms and conditions and explains why they are important.
Terms and conditions or T&Cs is a page on a website which sets out the rights and responsibilities of anyone using the site. It effectively forms a contract between the site and the user.
Terms and conditions often include an explanation or definition of key terms used in the terms and outlines the legal limitations of responsibility of the website owner for any damages or harmed incurred during usage of the site. It will include what action may be taken against a user who breaks the terms and may also detail the intellectual rights of the website owner.
For this reason, it is important that all websites have terms and conditions. In addition, Companies as website owners need to ensure that it is adequately robust legally to both protect them and to limit their liability if they ever face or instigate legal action.
While the exact contents vary depending on the nature of the site and the services it provides, terms and conditions will typically include the following elements:
Also known as a disclaimer, this removes any responsibility for errors in the information on the website. If the website allows users to comment or add content to the site (e.g. on a blog or content sharing site), then it should include a section that removes any accountability for posts that may be considered offensive. It is sensible to also state that any third party content on the site is not endorsed by the site owner, and is not indicative of their opinion.
Whether the site sells products, services, or shares information, it should have a copyright notice that includes the current year. This section should inform users that all content, logo, and branding are the intellectual property of the site owner.
Where the website or business is based, and therefore the country whose laws govern the terms and conditions.
The actions or circumstances that would be classed as abuse of the site and the consequences for such actions should be detailed. This is more relevant where users are able to post content or are able to contact other users.
The statement that the Company and/or site owners have the right to modify or change the agreement, without reference to the users, at any time. It should state that the responsibility for checking any amendments is that of the site user, although some Companies/sites will send e-mails or add a notice to the website stating that they have altered.
Of course, the complete terms and conditions agreement will be much more extensive and cover many other aspects of how you run and operate your site and business.
In addition to the above sections, eCommerce sites are advised to incorporate a number of other sections. These include:
If the worst happens, and a website owner or Company finds themselves in dispute with a client, they will need to prove that the user should have been aware of the terms and conditions and had agreed to them.
While different Companies locate their terms and conditions in different areas, the most widely recommended way of ensuring that users are unable to claim that they have not read or accepted terms and conditions, is through what is known as the 'click-wrap method'. This simply means that when a user enters their details, they are required to indicate that they agree to the terms and conditions. There is usually a link to the said terms and conditions in the registration or sign-up box so that ticking the box is also seen to indicate that they have also read them.