Frequently Asked Questions About Website Terms and Conditions

25 May 2016

Website Terms and Conditions, Terms of Use, Terms of Service – call whatever you may; they essentially serve a single most important purpose: to equip you with the best possible legal protection in terms of limiting your liability, which you may be exposed to by having an online presence.

To a layman, Website Terms and Conditions appear almost the same for every website, but as with any legal document, the devil is in the details. While almost every website has Terms and Conditions, its utility is rarely fully appreciated. That is because only a very small fraction of the websites will ever encounter a situation where the Website Terms and Conditions are actually needed.

This article will answer the most frequently asked questions around web site and conditions, including:
  • why your website must have them
  • ensuring your visitors accept your terms
  • why you shouldn't copy them from someone else
  • how you can this sorted straight away

Why do I need Terms and Conditions?

Terms and Conditions serve multiple purposes, namely:

  • They represent a legal agreement between you and the users of your website, which means in case you have a dispute with any of the users of the website, the Terms and Conditions will be your reference point to resolve the issue;
  • They limit the usage of the website and its content. In other words, the users of the website will be able to know what they can or cannot do with the information and content on the website.
  • They limit your liability in case of a claim against your company. By disclaiming certain actions and omissions, you can actually reduce your liability to a great extent.
  • They prevent the abuse of your intellectual property by setting the limits of its use by the users of the website. The users are given a limited license to access your content, images, artwork, logo, design, software, etc. as used on the website strictly for personal use, and no copy or reproduction of such protected content is permissible without your prior permission.
  • If you are a service provider, the Terms and Conditions govern your relationship with your customers. You can define the scope of services you offer. Similarly, you can also include the payment terms and conditions within your Website Terms and Conditions.
  • If your website contains user-submitted content, e.g., in the form of blog posts, comments, feedback, reviews, forum discussion boards, etc., the Terms and Conditions will protect you from any liability that may arise from any infringing or illegal user-submitted content. For instance, Facebook contains all kinds of user-submitted content, but such content does not affect Facebook as a website since it is a mere platform service provider. The liability of Facebook is no more than to take down infringing or illegal content.
  • Moreover, the Terms and Conditions serve the function of encouraging the users not to submit any content that may be considered illegal or immoral or infringe upon the intellectual property right of third parties. Again, the Terms and Conditions will come into play and limit your liability in case a third party alleges infringement of their copyright through the user-submitted content on your website.

In case your website does not contain Terms and Conditions, your online business will be governed by the Consumer Laws, which are usually customer-friendly. Further, Search Engines, like Google, may penalize you with lower rankings in case your website Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy are not easily accessible.

How do I Implement Terms and Conditions?

Website Terms and Conditions can be easily implemented. One of the most commonly used modes of implementing them is by inserting a link at the bottom of each page of the website so that the users need not navigate away from their current page in order to access the Terms and Conditions.

In case your website requires registration process, the users should ideally be made to accept the Terms and Conditions either by giving an option to tick the checkbox adjacent to “I agree to the Terms and Conditions of the Website” or similar text. Alternatively, the applicable Terms and Conditions may be inserted within a text box adjacent to “I agree to the following Terms and Conditions” or similar text.

Thus, acceptance to Terms and Conditions may be made mandatory before allowing the users to register on the website and gain access to members’ only features and functionality on the website.

I have a static informational website. Do I require Terms and Conditions?

Yes! You need Terms and Conditions in order to disclaim any inaccuracy or incompleteness of the information. Moreover, you need to prevent the misuse of your intellectual property depicted on the website.

My website features file uploading option. Do I need any additional protection in the Terms and Conditions?

Yes! You must warn the users that uploaded files should not contain viruses or any other harmful content. Further, the uploaded file should also not contain any material infringing intellectual property of any one. Furthermore, the users must represent and warrant that they are the owners of the uploaded file, or otherwise have license to upload such file on your website. You must also define the privacy of the uploaded content, i.e., who can and cannot access the uploaded file.

I provide services and do not sell any products through the website. Do I still need Website Terms and Conditions?

Yes! You need to put your terms and conditions for the provision of services online in order to limit your liability. For instance, you cannot ensure provision of services in the event of any Act of God, like floods, earthquake, riots, war, etc.

Mine is an e-commerce website. What are the clauses my Website Terms and Conditions must contain

Terms and Conditions of an e-commerce website are fairly elaborate and contain several vital clauses, including:

  • Buying terms and conditions
  • Payment Policy
  • Refund Policy
  • Shipping and Returns
  • Taxes
  • Intellectual Property Rights
  • Discount Policy
  • Voucher/Coupons Policy

I am not a lawyer. Do I need to hire one to draft my Website Terms and Conditions?

Terms and Conditions document is a legal agreement and ideally, it should be prepared by someone well versed with the applicable law. This is particularly true with more complex Terms and Conditions or services, where the inter-play between individual terms in the Terms and Conditions may be interpreted differently from your expectations or be otherwise non-intuitive.

Also, striking the right balance of terms in your T&Cs is important as, for example, terms that are deemed unfair by the court will not be binding on consumers.

I’ve modelled my website on similar lines as another website. Can I copy-paste the terms and conditions of that website?

You should refrain from copying terms and conditions of similar sites primarily due to the following reasons:

  1. It might result in copyright violations;
  2. The shortcomings of the terms and conditions of that website will be reflected in yours too, and they may not be immediately obvious;
  3. The original terms and conditions may not be applicable to your website despite some similarity in the features and functionality of the two sites.

Terms and Conditions is an important document for your website, which should not be ignored irrespective of the size or nature of the website. Further, even if you already have T&Cs in place, these should be reviewed on a regular basis for compliance to ensure they keep up with legislative or regulatory changes as well as any new case law.

How can Tact help?

Tact can help review your existing Website Terms and Conditions to ensure they provide you with the necessary legal protection - see more about our contract checking service. If you are starting from scratch, you can download one of our standard templates for Websites Terms and Conditions.

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