When it comes to crafting a website, perhaps one of the most overlooked elements is the terms and conditions section.
Terms and conditions can help customers to understand the ins and outs of the service you’re offering, and they can also be a good place to put fairly boring, dry legal information that people can therefore access if they want to.
Depending on where you’re located, it may or may not be a legal requirement to display some of the information that terms and conditions would usually contain, so if you’re asking the question “does my website need terms and conditions?”, the answer might be a little more complex than you’d imagine.
Here’s our breakdown of whether you need terms and conditions on your website, and why it might be a good idea to include them even if you don’t think you need them.
It’s not a legal requirement to display terms and conditions
First, let’s answer the question on a technical basis: does my website need terms and conditions?
In the UK, at least, it isn’t actually a legal requirement to put terms and conditions on your website.
Technically speaking, you don’t need a section on your site marked “terms and conditions”, so if you don’t have one, you can potentially breathe a sigh of relief.
However, the actual realities of this situation can be a little more complex, so you might want to hold off on walking away without worrying about your terms and conditions section.
Some information must legally be displayed on your site
Although “does my website need terms and conditions?” can technically be answered with “no”, there is certain information that you’re legally required to display on your site.
You can see this information on the government’s website as part of the Electronic Commerce Directive Regulations, which were drafted in 2002.
Depending on the nature of your website, you may be required to disclose your name, your geographic address, and your location of registration, as well as a number of other details.
Certain businesses must also display other information, so make sure you’ve thoroughly researched what your business is legally required to display before you pass on a terms and conditions section.
The benefits of including a terms and conditions section
Having a T&Cs section on your website is a good idea for a number of reasons.
First, you’ll reduce your potential number of legal headaches or challenges if you have a terms and conditions section, wherein you can place all of the important information that you’re legally required to display.
If this information is difficult to access or it’s not clear where customers can find it, then you may be subject to lawsuits or legal complaints, and even if you can successfully defend yourself in court, it would obviously be better not to end up there in the first place.
There’s no set rule regarding what should be in your terms and conditions section, but domain site GoDaddy lists three core elements you should include if you’re going to write T&Cs. They are as follows.
- Limitation of liability. This section refers to disavowing responsibility for website errors, as well as ensuring that customers know you’re not responsible for the content of comments or customer feedback. This will ensure that lawsuits can’t be filed against you for derogatory or defamatory language if a customer comment contains such content.
- Permitted use. If you’ve spent ages on your graphic design and you’re particularly proud of how your website looks, then the permitted use section will come in handy. This is where you tell other companies or users that they can’t simply appropriate your logo or any of your business assets for their own purposes. Copyright is also often part of this section.
How to write a good terms and conditions section
When you’re embarking on writing your first terms and conditions section (or, indeed, the latest in a string of them), you should ensure that you follow best practices. We’re not legal consultants by any means, but here are some of the general tips we would tend to advise when writing terms and conditions.
- Seek professional legal advice. You may find terms and conditions generators online, and you may also find that you want to try and write them yourself, but the best thing you can do is to seek professional legal advice. This will ensure that your terms and conditions are as airtight as possible and that you haven’t made any major errors.
- Don’t copy your T&Cs from elsewhere. Your site will differ from another site in lots of different ways, and so copying and pasting another site’s T&Cs while replacing their company name with yours is generally a bad idea.
- Notify customers if you change your T&Cs. It’s technically not a legal requirement to notify users when you change your T&Cs, but making big changes and not informing customers could have serious legal ramifications, so if you write a set of terms and conditions and then make changes to them, you should always make sure you inform your users in some way.