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Website Terms and Conditions

What are website terms and conditions and why it is important to have them

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.


What are terms and conditions

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.

What is the difference between terms and conditions (T&C), terms of service (ToS), and terms of use (ToU)? There is no difference. Any of these three terms - or even user agreement - can be used as the name of the agreement to indicate the same document, it is the information contained within the page that is important.


Who needs terms and conditions and why

Unlike a privacy policy, terms and conditions are not a legal requirement. However, it is recommended that every website includes one as it forms the legal basis of the site's relationship with the user. If there is ever a legal dispute, whether due to a user making a claim against the site or the Company suing a user for any reason, the courts will use terms and conditions as a basis for assessing the validity of the complaint.


Terms

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.


What to include in terms and conditions

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:


Limit of Liability

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.


Copyright

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.


Copyright

Country of governance

Where the website or business is based, and therefore the country whose laws govern the terms and conditions.


Abuse of the site and consequences

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.


Change clause

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.


E-commerce sites

In addition to the above sections, eCommerce sites are advised to incorporate a number of other sections. These include:

  • Description disclaimer - many sites include a disclaimer that states that while they attempt to ensure that all product descriptions are accurate, there is no guarantee that they are error-free.
  • Price - a statement that prices are correct at the time of publication but are not guaranteed until the time of ordering as they may fluctuate even during short periods of time.
  • Returns and refunds policy - under what circumstances returns will be accepted; who is responsible for paying postage costs; and when clients can expect to receive a refund.

How to enforce terms and conditions

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.


Create terms and conditions

As discussed above, while terms and conditions are not a legal requirement, unlike the privacy policy, it is something that every website owner should consider essential. They provide a legal basis for the website's relationship with its users and is considered a contract in a court of law. For this reason, it is important that website owners create terms and conditions that meet their individual requirements. This can be done easily and cost-effectively by contacting us at ADOGREEN LEGAL.