website terms and conditions

The "terms and conditions" section found on many websites generally explains the legal relationship between the company and the customer, whether it includes legal disclaimers; billing notices; privacy policies; refund policies; or other details. The terms and conditions often are listed somewhere on the website, you often "pop up" with a prompt requiring the user to "accept" them. But the contents of a website's terms and conditions really depend on the type of business in which it's engaged, the extent of its data collection, which types of functions the site has, and so on.

Website Terms and Conditions: Returns, Refunds and Lost Items

If your website is in engaged in e-commerce by selling products to customers, then you probably need a terms and conditions legal notice regarding credit card billing, returns and refunds. As an example, many websites allow customers to return un-used products for up to thirty days after purchase. You may want to include similar language in your website.

In addition, there are other disclaimers that you should make in a terms and conditions page that depend on your website. If, for example, your website sells glass ornaments, you should probably disclaim any liability for losses due to breakage when a customer sends an item back to your store.

Terms of service are subject to change and vary from service to service, so several initiatives exist to increase public awareness by clarifying such differences in Terms, including:

  • Copyright licensing on user content
  • Transparency on government or law enforcement requests for content removal
  • Notification of government or third-party requests for personal data
  • Transparency of security practices
  • Saved or temporary first and third-party cookies
  • Data tracking policy and opt-out availability
  • Pseudonym allowance
  • Readability
  • Notification and feedback prior to changes in Terms
  • Availability of previous Terms
  • Notification prior to information transfer in event of merger or acquisition
  • Indemnification or compensation for claims against account or content
  • Cancellation or termination of account by user and or service

A terms-of-service agreement typically contains sections pertaining to one or more of the following topics:

  • Disambiguation/definition of key words and phrases
  • User rights and responsibilities
    • Proper or expected usage; potential misuse
    • Accountability for online actions, behavior, and conduct
    • Privacy policy outlining the use of personal data
    • Payment details such as membership or subscription fees, etc.
    • Opt-out policy describing procedure for account termination, if available
  • Disclaimer/Limitation of Liability clarifying the site's legal liability for damages incurred by users
  • User notification upon modification of terms, if offered.

Well-drafted terms should act like a manual or recipe book for doing business and having absolute clarity on what should happen in a given situation. They should set out what the agreed terms are between parties and more importantly what happens if things go wrong or one party wants to leave or is unable to continue. Terms and conditions can also save a lot of money by addressing all issues at the outset. This in turn avoids disputes later on about what might or might not have been agreed.

 The exact elements to include depends on the individual business but you should consider including:

• A clear definition of what products or services will be provided

• Setting out the payment terms – when is payment due

• Any guarantees or warranties offered

• Timelines for delivery and any queries

• Specifying what happens if either party doesn’t deliver or pay or wants to end the relationship

• The term of the agreement and what notice is required to get out of it

• Which law shall govern the contract

 Top tips for setting out your terms and conditions

  •  Draw up a list of the key commercial terms that you are offering your customers
  •  Think of all the scenarios of what could possibly go wrong and then set out what you would do in each case.
  •  Imagine the most awkward customer possible in doing this exercise
  •  Put yourself in the shoes of your customers and make sure the language is at their level and user friendly. Hiding everything on one page in the smallest font possible will not endear you to your customers
  •  Don’t forget about the terms of trade – this should be something that you revisit and update, as and when required.
  •  When in doubt, seek help. Ask for advice from your mentor, a professional or fellow business owners.

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