You've spent weeks perfecting the messaging for your business website. Do you need a terms and conditions page on top of everything else?
You are in the 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 a detailed answer, keep reading.
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Website Terms and Conditions Overview
Arguably 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.
Website 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 on your website.
If you’re ever facing a legal dispute, a court will look at your website terms to determine the contractual terms between you and the customer—and, depending on how your website terms and conditions are written, it could provide legal protection against the dispute. When creating this page, you’ll want to approach it with the goal of having such information hold up in court.
Basic Elements of Terms and Conditions
The specific content included in website 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.
You’ll need a basic disclaimer removing your liability for any errors in your web content. Generally, it’s a clause that says you can’t be held responsible for any errors that are included in the content on your website.
For websites that allow visitors to post content to your website (a.k.a. user-generated content), 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 in user-generated content or elsewhere.
Regardless of what your website does, you should always include a notice about copyright to protect your intellectual property rights. For example, “Copyright ©2023. yourwebsite.com.”
Similar to adding a notice about copyright, if your company holds any trademarks (e.g., your company name), you’ll also want to include such information in your website terms and conditions.
Set Governing Law
Your website terms and conditions should also mention where your website is operating from in the terms and conditions agreement 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.”
Click Wrap Agreement
In order to increase their legal protection, some websites are opting to add a click wrap agreement to their website terms and conditions. With a click wrap agreement, users need to expressly agree to the website’s terms and conditions by clicking “I agree” (or something similar) before accessing the website’s services online. Once they click “I agree,” they enter a binding contract to abide by the website’s terms and conditions—even if they don’t actually read the entire document.
Now, it’s worth noting that how legally binding these agreements are is up for debate. They don’t always hold up in court—but they do add an extra layer of protection, so if you’re concerned about potential lawsuits, it’s definitely something to consider.
Depending on your business type and the content you plan to feature or services you plan to offer on your website, here are some elements you may want to add to your customized terms and conditions:
- Contact information
- Payment terms
- Delivery terms
- Refund and return policy
- Statement of a right to refuse service
- Termination clause
- Permitted use statement
Ways to Create Website Terms and Conditions
Although it can seem a bit overwhelming, when it comes to how to create terms and conditions for your website, the process is fairly straightforward.
There are 3 common ways to create your terms (depending on your business, some ways will be better than others):
1. Don’t 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 other websites that seem to know what they’re doing? Can’t you just use website terms from another site (e.g., a similar company)?
Spoiler alert: As tempting as this may be, it’s not a good idea.
For starters, taking content that’s not in the public domain is copyright infringement. More importantly, if you took another website’s terms and conditions document, 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 website’s terms.
2. Use a Terms and Conditions Generator
There are plenty of websites that will generate terms and conditions for you. So there’s no real excuse to ever copy from another site anyway. Simply Google “terms and conditions for website generator” and you’ll see countless options to choose from.
These sites will put together 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 website terms and 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.
Generally speaking, small businesses should think about getting an attorney if they are:
- Involved in e-commerce (i.e., if they actually transact business on their e-commerce site vs. just marketing)
- Gathering users’ personal data
- Merchandising or marketing their own intellectual property online
- Talking to an audience under 13
For the last one, special rules and security measures apply for marketing to minors, and you’ll want to make sure you’re not only compliant with the applicable law—but that your website terms reflect this.
You don’t necessarily need to have your own lawyer to get 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.
Frequently Asked Questions
Still have some questions about website terms and conditions? Let’s jump into some FAQs:
How Do I Add Terms and Conditions to My Website?
There are a few different ways to add terms and conditions to your website.
As mentioned earlier, one way is by adding a click wrap agreement. With this type of agreement, you would add your website terms and conditions to a pop up or landing page—and users need to click “I agree” before they access your website.
Another way is what’s called a browse wrap agreement. With this type of agreement, you would add a link to your terms and conditions somewhere on your website (generally, in the footer)—and users can browse for the terms and click on the link if and when they choose.
There’s no right or wrong way to add terms and conditions to your website. Ultimately, you need to explore all the options and choose which feels best for your site and your business.
Do I Have to Add a Terms and Conditions Page to My Website?
You don’t. As mentioned, while you aren’t legally required to add website terms and conditions, doing so offers a variety of benefits, including limiting your liability and protecting your intellectual property.
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. After all, you likely have some for you how you collect payments if you’re running your own business. 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 website terms and conditions, but they will certainly come in handy should any issues arise.
This post was updated in December 2022.