If you need to get a quick start on writing terms and conditions, you can use the information found in this article to jump start the legal side of your official website. We will provide you with information on what terms and conditions are, and why website owners need it, along with the terms and conditions template and a few examples.
A few of the facts stated below deserve your undivided attention. First, make sure to check law requirements and if they apply in the country where you are from and what you need to include in the terms and conditions when you are using them. Second, make sure to place them in the right spot on your website in order to make them legally binding.
Without further ado, let's take a closer look at terms and conditions.
What is a terms and conditions agreement
It is important not to confuse it with End-User License Agreement (EULA). EULA is used for desktop software that may or may not require a server connection to run. If you have a mobile app or if you offer services through your website, you will need to have ToS in place.
On many websites today, rules and guidelines specified in the terms and conditions have to be agreed on by website visitors, so that the user may continue using the website in question. In this scenario, the website is a company and the user is the person who visits it. Terms and conditions serve as a legal contract between these two.
Terms and conditions have to be set up by you. Since your website and/or service you provide may differ from others on the market, you can use the terms and conditions Template as a reference point. But, in the end, you will have to specify rules and guidelines for your website visitors to follow. This way, you will have a legal agreement and hold the rights to practice measures specified in the terms and conditions, if a visitor abuses the website and its content.
Terms and conditions can be used in different business models offering a wide range of services:
- E-commerce websites
- Product catalog and business card websites
- Online blogs running on WordPress, Joomla, Drupal and similar platforms
- Software as a Service Applications (SASS)
- Mobile Apps (iPhone, iOS, Android)
- Web apps (Facebook, Twitter, etc)
Why website owners and app developers need it
Now that we have established that website owners and mobile application developers need the terms and conditions as a set of rules users have to abide by in order to use the website or app, the question "Why?" remains unanswered. Here are several compelling reasons why website owners need terms and conditions:
Since the terms and conditions act as a legally binding contract, you will be able to take actions when users violate rules and guidelines provided in this document. This applies to abusive actions done by website visitors or mobile app users, such as posting or sharing defamatory content, spamming other users, using harmful language, etc.
Protect your content
Everything you create and post on your website or app, starting from the logo and images to blog posts and the design of the website makes you the owner of it. You can use terms and conditions to insert the intellectual property clause and inform the website visitors that you are the owner of the content and that it is protected by copyright laws.
Ban users and terminate accounts
In some cases, even when you inform the users about the rules and guidelines, you won't be able to prevent abuses. When you specify a Termination or Ban clause in the terms and conditions, you will be able to terminate users accounts and ban them based on their activity.
Set the governing law
Website owners usually use terms and conditions to specify the governing law. Informing the users about the specific legal boundaries.
Terms and conditions can be used as a sort of disclaimer to inform the website visitors about specific content found on the website and limit the website owner's liability in case the use of the content results in some negative effect to the user.
Terms and conditions on an eCommerce website can be really useful. For instance, if you find out that some price was incorrect, you can cancel that order without facing any consequences. As long as you specify the specific circumstances in which you can take a specific action, you will stay on the legal side of things.
Law requirements in different countries
In Australia, for instance, you are required by the Australian Consumer Law to clearly describe your business standards and provide terms and conditions on your eCommerce website. In Australia, the terms and conditions have to include directions on how visitors can use a website, what is forbidden, and a short liability disclaimer. Terms and conditions found on websites of businesses based in this country have to cover:
- Returns and Refunds, as well as delivery of goods policy
- Australian consumer law and consumer guarantees
- User's rights to use the website in question
The World's Federal Trade Commission has few regulations regarding terms and conditions and online privacy protection. For instance, if a company has a website that targets an audience that is under 13 years old, it has to be compliant with the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act.
In terms and conditions agreements it is incredibly important to define a Governing Law. The Governing Law clause clearly states which laws and rules govern the agreement. This is the first clause interested parties look for in case legal issues arise.
What to include in terms and conditions
In order to cover all legal grounds, writing the terms and conditions has to be taken seriously. Depending on the service or content you provide to your users, you can consider including the following in your custom-tailored terms and conditions agreement (not necessarily in this order):
A clause where you specify the limits to what the users can do. In this section, you inform website visitors or app users that upon agreeing on using it, they are also agreeing to the other things. Website owners usually state negative and unwanted uses, the so-called prohibited activities.
Intellectual property clause
Intellectual property disclosure usually informs website visitors and/or app users that the provided content is the website owners property. This is a great place to state which content is protected by (international) copyright laws.
The content clause is pretty common on websites that have a blog section open for contributors, or any kind of content uploading and sharing features. In the content clause, the website owner can inform visitors that they own the rights to the content they have created, even though it is public and accessible to other visitors. In this clause, you also inform the users that upon uploading, you might share this content and make it accessible to anyone else.
User ban and account termination clause should always be included in terms and conditions if there is a user/visitor behavior limitation clause. In this clause, the website owner informs users that their accounts can be terminated if they violate any of the rules and guidelines regarding the use of the website.
Service availability clause
If you are providing service via your website, this clause is really important. Big online service providers such as Apple clearly state in this clause that iTunes services can be canceled at any time without notifying users and that they do not guarantee that the service will be accessible around the clock.
Governing law clause
Terms and conditions is an agreement. In this clause, website owners inform visitors which laws govern the agreement. Usually, these laws are laws of the state where the company's headquarters are located or state/country from which the company operates.
Linking to other websites clause
Terms and conditions examples
Here are some examples of terms and conditions agreement of the most popular websites.
YouTube has an incredibly high number of visitors who come by to watch videos and users who film, create and upload videos. Their terms and conditions is quite long but written in an impeccable fashion. They divide this agreement into several sections.
Right at the start visitors can get informed about what they are accepting, followed by Service, User Accounts, General Use – Permissions and Restrictions, Your Use of Content, Your Content and Conduct, Account Termination Policy, Digital Millennium Copyright Act, Warranty Disclaimer, Limitation of Liability, Indemnity, Assignment and General.
They have a well-written Ability to Accept Terms of Service, which you can see below:
Amazon has quickly become a synonym for online purchasing. Today Amazon is so much more, but let's stick to the eCommerce side of Amazon's operations. This company provides an extensive terms and conditions agreement, covering all possible scenarios. For the purpose of this article, I've decided to share with you the Limitations clause of their Shipping and Delivery Terms & Conditions agreement.
Where to display it
Two most common ways to display terms and conditions are browse-wrap and clickwrap.
A browse-wrap agreement is the one that is displayed in the footer of the web page. Website owners often opt for this type, because it doesn't have an impact on the website design and user experience.
A clickwrap agreement is when you place full terms and conditions, available on a user's demand, in an obvious spot. Lightbox beside the terms and conditions on web pages where users have to take action is also a pretty common solution.
How to enforce it
It is one thing to display the terms and conditions agreement, but another to make it enforceable. Why is it important to make it enforceable? In case you end up in court, you will have to prove that the website visitor was informed about the terms and conditions and despite it, he has performed an action that resulted in, for example, account termination.
The best way to make the terms and conditions enforceable it to force a website visitor or mobile app user to perform an action which confirms that they have read terms and conditions. We have mentioned Browse-wrap agreements in the section above. These are not suitable for this purpose because they are usually located in the footer of the website, containing the link to the terms and conditions.
In order to enforce it, clickwrap agreement is a much better solution. Providing proper notice to visitors about legal agreements before they perform an action is called a clickwrap agreement. For instance, before subscribing to an email list or for news updates, registering an account, completing a purchase, etc.
Sample free terms and conditions template
Generic Terms and Conditions Template
Conditions of Use
We are pleased to welcome you to our online shop. The people working at "Company name" will provide their services to you, which are subject to the conditions stated below in this document. Every time you visit this website and use it to make a purchase online, you accept the following conditions. This is why we urge you to read them carefully.
Content published on this website (digital downloads, images, texts, graphics, logos) is the property of "Company Name" and/or its content creators and protected by international copyright laws. The entire compilation of the content found on this website is the exclusive property of "Company Name", with copyright authorship for this compilation by "Company Name".
The entire communication with us is electronic. Every time you send us an email or visit our website, you are going to be communicating with us. You hereby consent to receive communications from us. If you subscribe to the news on our website, you are going to receive regular emails from us. We will continue to communicate with you by posting news and notices on our website and by sending you emails. You also agree that all notices, disclosures, agreements and other communications we provide to you electronically meet the legal requirements that such communications be in writing.
By visiting "Company Name's" website, you agree that the laws of the "Name of country or state", without regard to principles of Conflict Laws, will govern these terms and conditions, or any dispute of any sort that might come between "Company Name" and you, or its business partners and associates.
Any dispute related in any way to your visit to "Company Name's" website or to products you purchase through "Company Name" shall be arbitrated by state or federal court "Name of Country or State" and you consent to exclusive jurisdiction and venue of such courts.
Comments, Reviews, and Emails
Visitors may post content as long as it is not obscene, illegal, defamatory, threatening, infringing of intellectual property rights, invasive of privacy or injurious in any other way to third parties. Content has to be free of software viruses, political campaign, and commercial solicitation.
"Company Name" reserves all rights (but not the obligation) to remove and/or edit such content. When you post your content, you grant "Company Name" non-exclusive, royalty-free and irrevocable right to use, reproduce, publish, modify such content throughout the world in any media.
License and Site Access
"Company Name" grants you a limited license to access and make personal use of this website. You are not allowed to download or modify it. This may be done only with written consent of "Company Name".
If you are an owner of an account on this website, you are solely responsible for maintaining the confidentiality of your private user details (username and password). You are responsible for all activities that occur under your account or password.
"Company Name" reserves all rights to terminate accounts, edit or remove content and cancel orders in their sole discretion.
Displaying terms and conditions on a company's website or mobile app is an excellent way to inform visitors about their rights, rules, and guidelines for using the website. This document is very important and may be used in a court of law when a company is facing an expensive lawsuit, or when it needs to sue a visitor because he has damaged the company in any way by disobeying the guidelines and rules stated in the terms and conditions.