Terms and Conditions for a Business Website

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 Terms and Conditions for a Business Website

All business websites should have a “terms and conditions” provision. The terms and conditions for a business website can often be found after scrolling to the bottom of the website’s home page or through a “pop-up” window that requests you to accept the terms and conditions before proceeding.

For a business website, listing the terms and conditions is an important way to protect the business and prevent liability vis-a-vis the customers and third parties.

What Are the “Terms and Conditions” of a Website?

The terms and conditions provision of a business website forms the legal relationship between the company and its customers. The terms and conditions lay down the ground rules for website users and serve as a binding agreement between the business and the website visitor.

They set out exactly what you’ll offer your customers and what you expect from them. The content included in the terms and conditions depends on what type of business is being conducted, the data it collects, the functions of the website, and more.

If you are a customer, you might see a notification of “cookies” that requires you to accept or acknowledge that the website will store “cookies” on your computer. This is often harmless, but most websites must notify you due to stricter internet regulations.

Cookies are a way for the website to recognize you if you return to their page again, and they can allow the page to retain any information you might have input last time. An example is compiling any items left in your shopping cart that you did not purchase.

How Does the Terms and Conditions Provision Actually Create a Contract?

To form a contract, both parties must agree to it. How does your business know if the customer agrees? There are two ways: express consent and implied consent.

Express consent means getting customers to take positive, affirmative action to show they’ve accepted the terms and conditions agreement. The most common way to do this is by using a consent checkbox. The customer will see this before they can access the website; if they don’t check it, they won’t be allowed to proceed.

Implied (unspoken) consent is often sufficient if the business clearly states that users agree to the terms and conditions by using its services. Including a link that leads to the terms and conditions agreement is best.

What Should Be Included in a Terms and Conditions Provision?

Every terms and conditions agreement should have, at minimum, the following clauses:

  • A brief introduction explaining that the terms and conditions form a legally binding agreement between the company and the customer
  • The effective date
  • Jurisdiction/governing law: if there is a dispute, what state’s laws will be used
  • Rules of conduct for the customer – what they can and cannot post, for example
  • Account termination information: what behavior on the part of the customer will cause/allow the business to terminate the customer’s account
  • A link to the business’s privacy policy (see below)
  • Limitation of liability and disclaimer of warranties (see below)

What Is a Website’s Privacy Policy?

Websites that gather information from visitors should include a privacy policy in the terms and conditions section.
The business’s website might gather personal information about the customers. That could include the name, address, phone number, and credit card information of visitors to the site.

It is important that the privacy policy details exactly how this information will be used and also how it will not be used. For instance, if the business sells the information of its customers to a marketing company, the privacy policy should inform readers of this.

Do Websites Need to Mention Information About Sales and Refunds?

E-commerce businesses that sell products to consumers should include a legal notice in the terms and conditions regarding sales, returns, refunds, and credit card billing. For instance, if a company allows customers to return unused merchandise up to thirty days after purchase, this policy should be included.

Other disclaimers should also be included. They depend on what the business sells. For example, if the business sells porcelain dolls, it should inform customers that it is not liable for losses that may occur from breakage if the customer sends it back to the store.

Do Websites Need to Include Anything About Copyright or Trademarks?

Business websites should include copyright and trademark notices at the bottom of each web page, indicating that no one other than the business can use its copyrighted provisions or trademarks.

Copyright is a type of intellectual property protection that protects original works of authorship. A copyright notice protects a business from intellectual property thieves who attempt to copy the website and may also help the business win more damages in a lawsuit.

A trademark is a word, phrase, logo, or other symbol used to identify a product, the source of a product, and the manufacturer or merchant. A trademark usually distinguishes one product and its manufacturer from another.

What Is Limited Use and How Does it Protect Minors?

Websites that are aimed at younger audiences need to adhere to special rules. If the bulk of the audience is under 13 years old, the website must follow the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and the COPPA Rule, which can be found on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) website. This law limits the types of information a website can collect and use if the information is about a child.

For websites that sell items you normally need to show identification for in a store, having an age verification pop-up window is a good idea to prevent minors from accessing those items.

How Can Websites Limit Liability?

Business websites that allow users to post original content or that host a space for chatting or forums should have a clause in the terms and conditions that limits their liability for libelous, defamatory, or offensive posts made by other users. The most common methods for limiting liability are as follows:

  • The business can monitor and remove any offensive or slanderous content. Websites that allow users to post content and discussion can be monitored regularly. If anything questionable is posted, it can and should be removed immediately.
    • Any complaint that removing a posting violates the poster’s freedom of speech will not apply. Freedom of speech is a person’s right against the government but not against another private entity.
  • The business can remove postings that other website users have reported. If users are complaining about the postings of others, remove those posts immediately. Review the posts. If, after investigation, nothing is found to be offensive, defamatory, or libelous, the statements may be re-posted at the business owner’s discretion.
  • The business can directly disclaim liability. Within the terms and conditions sections of the website, the business should officially state that the website does not necessarily approve of or endorse any postings or statements made by third parties on the website. This disclaimer may lessen the business’s liability.

Do I Need to Consult a Lawyer to Create the Terms and Conditions for My Website?

The legal language used in terms and conditions is specific and necessary. It is important to consult a business lawyer to ensure your business’s liability is airtight and all-encompassing. Due to stricter requirements for net neutrality in certain parts of the United States, as well as the world, many websites must be able to comply with a wide variety of requirements.

Contact a lawyer today and safeguard the future of your online business with the knowledge and know-how of an experienced attorney.


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