Does My Website Really Need a Terms and Conditions Page?

March 1, 2016


You are in process of building a beautiful website for your business, when the developer asks for your Terms and Conditions page. You’ve spent weeks perfecting the landing page messaging, your bio, and other copy. A dull project like this hasn’t even crossed your mind.

Isn’t that just legal mumbo jumbo at the bottom of websites? Does anyone even read it? You’re just a small business, do you really need to create a Terms and Conditions page for your website?

That’s a great question. The short answer: not technically, but you probably should. For the detailed answer, keep reading…

Terms and Conditions Overview

Undeniably the dullest page on your website, the Terms and Conditions page sets the rules for using your website. While most websites seem to have one, there’s actually no legal requirement for defining terms and conditions.

(NOTE: If you are gathering user’s personal data, you are required by law to have a formal Privacy Policy – even if you don’t have a Terms and Conditions page.)

Terms and Conditions may not be required by law, but it’s still a smart thing to include.

These pages can limit your liability should a customer take you to court, as well as protect your rights to the content contained in your website.

If you’re ever facing a legal battle, a court will look at your website terms to determine the contractual terms between you and the customer. When creating this page, you’ll want to take approach it with the goal of having it hold up in court.

Basic Elements of Terms and Conditions

The specific content included in Terms and Conditions will be unique to your business and website type. However, you’ll find common themes woven throughout, despite your industry.

Let’s discuss some of the basic elements you’ll need to include.

Limit Liability

You’ll need a basic disclaimer removing your liability from errors in your web content. Generally, it’s a clause that says you can’t be held responsible for any errors in content.

For websites that allow visitors to post content to your website, you need language that limits your liability from offensive postings. Add a disclaimer that you don’t endorse users and aren’t responsible for the statements made by third parties.

Copyright

Regardless of what your website does, you should always include a notice about copyright and trademark. For example, “Copyright © 2015. yourwebsite.com.”

Privacy Policy

If you are collecting any information from your customers (such as email addresses or credit card information), you need to post a privacy policy. This outlines how information will be used or not used.

This is the only part of the Terms and Conditions that is legally required. Check out Yahoo’s privacy policy for a good example.

Set Governing Law

Your Terms and Conditions should also mention where your website is operating from in terms of the governing law (state/province and country).

For example, “These terms and conditions are governed by the laws of the United States of America and the laws of the State of California.”

Ways to Create Terms and Conditions

Although it can seem a bit overwhelming, creating this page is quite simple. There are three common ways to create your terms. Some choices are better than others.

1. Copy Another Site

The idea behind this solution is that every company has a Terms and Conditions page and no one seems to ever read it. So why not just lift the wording from someone who looks like they know what they’re doing?

Just don’t do this. As tempting as this may be, it’s not a good idea.

For starters, it’s copyright infringement to take content that’s not in the public domain. More importantly, if you copied your Terms from another site, you may not be able to rely on it to protect your business in court.

While you can’t copy others’ pages, it’s smart to look at examples from businesses similar to yours. This will give you a sense of what you need to include in your own.

2. Use a Terms and Conditions Generator

There are plenty of websites that will generate a Terms and Conditions for you. So there’s no real excuse to ever copy from another site anyways. Simply Google “Terms and Conditions generator” and you’ll see countless options to choose from.

These sites will put together a basic Terms and Conditions for you, and in many cases this will be a perfectly suitable option – particularly if you are not actually conducting any business from your website (i.e. your website only advertises your services).

3. Enlist the Help of an Attorney

In some cases, you’ll want to have a lawyer create or at least review your Terms of Conditions to make sure they meet the specific needs of your business, as well as what you intend your website visitors to do with the site.

In my opinion, small businesses should think about getting an attorney if they are involved in e-commerce (i.e. you actually transact business on your site vs. just marketing); they gather user’s personal data; or they are talking to an audience under 13.

For the last one, special rules apply for marketing to minors and you’ll want to make sure you are compliant with the law and your website reflects this.

You don’t necessarily need to have your own lawyer in order to get a good Terms and Conditions drawn up. You can get affordable legal services from an online provider and that will typically be sufficient for this situation.

Summary: What You Need to Know

While not legally necessary unless you’re collecting user data, it is wise to have a Terms and Conditions statement for your website. It’s not complicated to put one together and you can use either an online generator or an affordable attorney service.

Chances are that no one will ever read your Terms and Conditions, but they will certainly come in handy should any issues arise.

Do you have a Terms and Conditions page? If so, what method did you use to create it?


about the author

FreshBooks is the #1 accounting software in the cloud designed to make billing painless for small businesses and their teams. Today, over 10 million small businesses use FreshBooks to effortlessly send professional looking invoices, organize expenses and track their billable time.