Every business, including e-commerce websites, should regard its terms and conditions (T&Cs) as an essential aspect of its operations. The main objective of T&Cs is to set out in detail the responsibilities of each party and what they will obtain from the agreement. If something goes wrong, the T&Cs will enable any disputes to be settled quickly without the courts’ involvement. However, if a disagreement does require lawyers, the terms can help determine which party is in the right.
Are T&Cs similar to terms of service?
Besides calling them terms and conditions, people use other titles such as service or business terms. Ultimately, the label you use is not essential as long as the terms legally protect your website/business.
Are T&Cs a legal requirement? And what about GDPR?
What should your T&Cs include?
If you are selling products or services online, make sure that your website’s terms and conditions explain how customers can:
- Place an order
- Pay for goods and read the payment terms.
- Check the delivery process.
- Cancel an order
According to this article, T&Cs will set the boundary for what actions are acceptable while also assuring your customers that their rights are being protected.
What type of protection can you expect?
As stated earlier, terms and conditions can protect your business from the repercussions of any possible disagreements. However, they will only be applicable if your customers are aware of them. Therefore, make sure you position your T&Cs prominently on your website and inform your visitors where they are located, ensuring you reference them when they make a purchase.
People may attempt to infringe on your copyrighted materials. To prevent this, you should use your T&Cs to specify which parts of your website are protected by copyright and which are not. If there are allegations of intellectual property breaches, your terms can help resolve them quickly.
What are the primary mistakes people make concerning T&Cs?
One of the first mistakes business owners make is not incorporating T&Cs on their website. Some companies also use free templates or, worse still: copy a competitor’s conditions. However, there are dangers in blindly using copied T&Cs. For example, they are often:
- Not applicable to your business
If the T&Cs don’t completely protect your business, you will be vulnerable to another party’s legal claim. This is why it is critical to use personalized T&Cs.
Are T&Cs enforceable?
As long as your terms are clear, concise, and comprehensive, they are enforceable like any other contract. Most importantly, your T&Cs should adhere to applicable consumer laws.
How often should you update?
You must review your T&Cs periodically, especially when your business starts to grow and evolve. Your terms should also reflect any changes to your operations or product offerings. However, if your business is quite static, a review every few years will probably suffice.
Online business owners should never neglect the need to incorporate appropriate terms and conditions. This is an essential way of protecting yourself should a disagreement arise. While T&Cs are not a legal requirement, they assure users and authorities that your website complies with the relevant consumer laws, including private data protection. Using free templates or copying another company’s T&Cs may appear to be the easiest option, but this approach can expose your business to legal vulnerabilities. The best way to legally protect your company is to create terms and conditions that are uniquely applicable to your business processes.
Kerry Gibbs is a legal expert at BEB Contract and Legal Services, providing small to medium-sized businesses with legal and contractual support. BEB handles various legal contracts and agreements, including terms and conditions, service agreements, retainers, shareholder agreements, service-level agreements, and many more. The company also specializes in writing terms and conditions in plain English to help your business grow.