I am sure we’ve all come across terms and conditions agreements on various websites here and there, however, did you ever think of their origin? I mean, how come they exist? Why do they exist? And most importantly, who writes terms and conditions? Is it a lawyer, a businessman, a web developer, or even myself?
All of these are valid questions that could be going through your mind, and we are here to put an end to your never-ending spiral. In this article, I will provide answers to all these questions and more.
I will also discuss the options you have as an online business owner when it comes to drafting your own terms.
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Who Writes Terms and Conditions?
As online business owners, having robust terms and conditions is an essential requirement for their online presence. It’s the contracts that govern the use of your website, or any products or services which may be found therein.
Given its importance, this document should not only protect your business but should also clearly communicate to your users or customers your guidelines for acceptable behavior and conduct when they use your website or your services.
Several options may be available to you. I will help you evaluate and explore the pros and cons of each option, so that you may be able to choose what works for you and the needs of your business.
Hire a Lawyer
When drafting any legal document is involved, the first thing that will pop up in your mind is to hire a trained lawyer. Although that could be the most sensible thing to do, hiring a lawyer doesn’t guarantee that they will take the time to study your business and provide you with a fully customized agreement that is tailored to your needs unless you’re prepared to spend thousands of dollars.
Additionally, lawyers are normally very busy professionals, which means that you may have to endure some amount of delay before you receive your customized terms, especially if your lawyer has a lot of clients and cases to deal with.
In most cases, unless you operate a large-scale corporation or work in a regulated industry, it’s an unnecessary expense and you could probably spend the funds on something more beneficial, such as actually growing your business.
Takeaway: Hiring a lawyer for legal documents can be costly and time-consuming. For small businesses or non-regulated industries, it may be unnecessary. Instead, allocate funds toward growing your business.
Use a Generators
Online terms and conditions generators are now a popular option for creating your own customized agreement. A positive benefit to using this option is that you will be able to produce your policies pretty much instantly.
When using generators, you would be asked to fill out a questionnaire and based on your responses, a customized document is generated quickly based on your answers.
Online generators are fast and affordable and can provide you with a legally binding and customized document. Some generators even provide ongoing updates to help you be in sync with changes in laws.
However, not all online document generators are created equal. Some may not really produce a document that is really tailor-made for your business, or worse, may leave out some essential legal provisions. Others may not update their documents often or at all. Be mindful of these factors when choosing to go this route.
Takeaway: Online terms and conditions generators offer fast, affordable, and legally binding customized agreements. However, quality varies and some may not be tailored for your business or miss essential provisions.
Use a Template
Another suitable option is to use a template. A simple online search will reveal many templates, which you can then customize for the needs of your business. On the surface, this option would be less costly when compared to hiring a legal professional.
However, using a template online presents its own risks.
Firstly, the quality of templates online varies tremendously, and some may not be even suitable or responsive to the needs of your business.
Secondly, there is also a very real risk of copyright infringement, especially if you simply copy-paste from another website. There is also no guarantee that the template was not simply lifted from an existing website without authorization.
Finally, while the right template can be a good starting point, it is unavoidable that a certain level of legal knowledge is still required in order to customize the said template for the specific circumstances of your business.
Takeaway: Using templates for business needs may seem cost-effective, but risks include varying quality, potential copyright infringement, and the need for legal knowledge to customize them properly.
Write it Yourself
One option for creating your terms and conditions is to draft it yourself. While this would save you some money, this option presents several risks.
Firstly, unless you have a legal background, there is a big chance that you lack the legal knowledge and familiarity in order to ensure that your agreement is legally binding.
Apart from this, there are many types of legal provisions that would have to be placed in order to attain a sufficient level of protection, such as sections on intellectual property, limitation of liability, and governing law among others. Failing to include these exposes your business to legal disputes and lawsuits.
Drafting it yourself, while cost-effective, can also be very time-consuming.
Even if you invest the required time to really carefully construct your agreement, you may still end up with a non-enforceable document, or a document that is ill-equipped to protect your rights, especially if you do not understand the legal implications or what should be included.
Takeaway: Drafting terms and conditions yourself saves money but risks legal issues due to lack of expertise, insufficient protection, and potential for disputes. It’s also time-consuming and may result in a non-enforceable or inadequate document.
Factors to Consider
Drafting your terms and conditions is an important aspect of your online presence. Creating such terms is not a task that you can simply ignore or leave to the future – without the said contract, your business will be unnecessarily exposed to various liabilities, including the possibility of lawsuits.
The good news is, there are several methods by which you can create your legal document, and each of these options discussed in this article has its own pros and cons. Ultimately, the best option for you will depend on your legal knowledge, business needs, and of course your budget.
If you are a lawyer or have a sufficient legal background, then drafting your own terms would make sense. You may even choose to use an online template as a good starting point, provided you use a valid source with sufficient permissions and authorization in order to avoid copyright infringement.
Although hiring a lawyer might seem like a valid option, it might not work best for most small businesses just starting out. The more logical and sensible option would be to use an online generator considering its ability to create customized and legally binding terms in minutes without much hassle on your end.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the advantages of using an online terms and conditions generator?
Online generators are fast, affordable, and can provide legally binding, customized agreements. Some even offer ongoing updates to keep up with changes in laws. However, quality can vary between generators so do your research.
Can I draft my own terms and conditions without legal expertise?
You can, but it comes with risks, such as legal disputes, insufficient protection, and potential non-enforceable documents. It can also be time-consuming and may result in an inadequate document.
Is hiring a lawyer necessary to create terms and conditions?
It’s not always necessary, especially for small businesses or non-regulated industries. Hiring a lawyer can be costly and time-consuming, and funds may be better spent on growing the business.
Are all terms and conditions agreements the same?
No, all terms and conditions agreements are not the same. They vary depending on the company, service, or product, and they outline the specific rules, obligations, and limitations that are different as well.