Writing website terms and conditions may not seem like much fun, but they are important for a number of reasons.  Terms and conditions help protect you against liability and help prevent conflicts and misunderstandings with your customers.

Check out LegalVision’s tips for writing your own website terms and conditions.

Don’t just use a template

You need to tailor your website terms and conditions to your website.  This involves some serious thought and consideration – you need ask yourself what are the problems and risks of somebody using your site or trading with you online.  What do you intend to do (and not do) with your site?

Style

You need to write your website terms and conditions in a clear way.  You need to be professional, but do not over-complicate things.  Remember this is also part of your customer relations, so don’t scare anybody off by being overly-onerous or threatening.  Website terms and conditions need to be fair to both parties.  Hence, you should outline which liabilities you will take responsibility for and those that you will not.  If you make it too one-sided nobody will want to trade with you!

Update it

If problems come up which you hadn’t envisaged then change the website terms and conditions as you go.

Organise using sub-headings

Structure the document by breaking it up into several sub-topics; these normally are things like pricing, privacy, refunds, intellectual property, security, liability and purchasing.

It covers all online activity

Start with a section which states all that all online trading and products/services sold through the website are sold on these terms and conditions.  Then say something to the effect of “by using this website you agree to these terms” and/or “do not use this website if you cannot accept these terms.

Copyright Protection

Protecting your intellectual property should be a priority when writing your website terms and conditions.  You need to write a term which protects your trademarks – such as logos, names and service marks. The clause should also stop anyone from using your written content through reproduction or redistribution of any sort without your prior written consent.

Privacy and Data Protection

Include a clause that states that you take your privacy obligations seriously, in particular which customer information and data you will retain and what will be permanently deleted.

Transactions

Your website terms and conditions should specify whether or not you use cookies and how difficulties with money transactions will be addressed.

Website disclaimer

A website disclaimer is different to the general website terms and conditions as a disclaimer relates only to legal liability.  Moreover, you should write a website disclaimer which specifies the limitations on your liability when problems arise.

Complaint procedure and customer service

You can avoid a lot of disputes and keep them internal by having a decent internal complaint procedure.  Communicate this in your terms and conditions so people know what to do when things go wrong.

What’s the difference between business terms and conditions and website terms of use

Business terms and conditions are a contractual arrangement you have with people who you transact with, for example your customers.  Business terms and conditions cover every type of transaction you are involved in.  Website terms of use, by contrast, just relate to how people use your website.

Speak to a business lawyer or get online legal advice

Getting website terms and conditions right is a difficult and often cumbersome task.  Get it done quickly, cheaply and risk-free by hiring a contract lawyer or having your website terms and conditions written by an online lawyer.

Ursula Hogben

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