The Terms & Conditions Guide You Didn’t Know You Needed

There’s a lot to think about when you’re updating or developing a website. From domain names, to color and design, to content and marketing, it can feel a little overwhelming. The last thing you want to think about is spending your time writing up a lengthy Terms and Conditions page that almost nobody will read.

While legal jargon can be mildly annoying, this often-overlooked section of your website is a vital component and should not be taken lightly.

In this post, we will walk you through the process of creating your own terms and conditions template, as well as provide you with some links to handy generators. 

What Is a Terms and Conditions Page?

A Terms and Conditions page is a legal document that details the rules and guidelines that users must agree to in order to use your website, service, or app. It is there to protect you, as well as your customers or users. In short, it is the rules of conduct for your site. 

Having this agreement on your website is not required by law, unlike a Privacy Policy, which is required by law. It may also be known as a Terms of Service Agreement or Terms of Use Agreement. 

Why Is It Important?

While the agreement may not be required by law, it is crucial that you have one. It allows you to decide how your website is run, what is deemed acceptable or unacceptable behavior, and what kind of repercussions there are for breaking the rules. And since you have clear requirements to use your site, it helps you maintain your rights, and it limits liability should you encounter a problem with a user.

By having this document on your website, it gives you legal grounds to exclude or terminate users due to abuse of your site, your app, your intellectual property, or for any reason outlined in your website terms and conditions. In short, it protects you and gives you legal recourse should someone create a dispute.

Having a Terms and Conditions page also helps to build trust with your target audience by letting them know that your take your site, and your business, seriously. It not only protects your business, it protects your customers.

Who Should Use One?

It’s best practice to make sure you have a Terms and Conditions page no matter what kind of website you’re running. A general rule of thumb is to have one if there’s any exchange of information on your site. That includes online stores, blogs, and any kind of app (for smartphone, Facebook, or desktop).

It is especially important for those who own and operate any kind of ecommerce store, wherever money or private information is exchanged or collected. Private information can include the collection of email addresses, names, and shipping addresses.

Even blogs should have a user agreement page. The collection of email addresses, the sharing of information or opinion, or having the option to comment on your posts are all considered the sharing of information and are good reasons to generate an agreement.

What Should Be Included?

When creating your terms and conditions template, there must be careful consideration of what key information you include. Below, you’ll find the most common clauses that should be included in any terms and conditions agreement, plus examples of each. There is an almost unlimited number of clauses that you can include in the agreement. It’s up to you to decide what is most important to include and how detailed to make it.

It’s not a bad idea to surf around and read clauses of user agreements on other websites to get an idea of the terminology and content that is included in them. Shopify is a great example because it includes “everyday language summaries” next to each clause.

Conditions of Use

You may also find the conditions of use under “Online Store Terms” or “General Conditions.” This clause outlines the services that are provided, as well as the general terms of use. This section should include statements that your users may not steal or exploit any portion of your service, and include agreements that your users will not violate any laws or use your services in any unlawful way. It should also include a statement that you can amend your terms and conditions at any time. 

Here’s an example of Amazon’s conditions of use:

Welcome to Amazon.com. Amazon Services LLC and/or its affiliates (“Amazon”) provide website features and other products and services to you when you visit or shop at Amazon.com, use Amazon products or services, use Amazon applications for mobile, or use software provided by Amazon in connection with any of the foregoing (collectively, “Amazon Services”). Amazon provides the Amazon Services subject to the following conditions.

By using Amazon Services, you agree to these conditions. Please read them carefully.

We offer a wide range of Amazon Services, and sometimes additional terms may apply. When you use an Amazon Service (for example, Your Profile, Gift Cards, Amazon Video, Your Media Library, Amazon devices, or Amazon applications), you also will be subject to the guidelines, terms and agreements applicable to that Amazon Service (“Service Terms”). If these Conditions of Use are inconsistent with the Service Terms, those Service Terms will control.

Privacy Disclaimers

Not to be confused with a Privacy Policy, the privacy disclaimer clause will inform your users that by using your website they agree to your Privacy Policy. It will frequently contain information about how you handle private information, the collection of that information, and how you handle security.

You may find that many websites simply link to their Privacy Policy in this section, and that’s OK. Shopify’s privacy disclaimer does just that:

“Shopify is firmly committed to protecting the privacy of your personal information and the personal information of your customers. By using the Service, you acknowledge and agree that Shopify’s collection, usage, and disclosure of this personal information is governed by our Privacy Policy [linked].”

 If you live in Europe, you should also include a cookie policy as per the new EU Cookie Law.

Intellectual Property

This section informs your users that the content contained in your website is, in fact, yours and that it cannot be stolen or used without your permission. If your service includes user-uploaded content, then you may also include details about what information belongs to them and what belongs to you. This clause protects your photos, videos, website design, products, descriptions, logo, name, etc. 

An excellent example of a simple, yet concise intellectual property (also called a copyright clause) comes from Bellroy:

The contents of our website, and the site as a whole, are intended solely for personal, noncommercial (other than for the purchase of merchandise from our Site) use by its users.

You may download or copy the contents and other downloadable materials displayed on bellroy.com for your personal use only. No right, title, or interest in any downloaded materials is transferred to you as a result of any such downloading or copying.

You may not reproduce (except as noted above), publish, transmit, distribute, display, modify, create derivative works of, sell or participate in any sale of, or exploit in any way, in whole or in part, any of the contents of this site.

Limitation of Liability

The Limitation of Liability section is extremely important. This is where you make it clear that your company is not to be held liable for damages that occurred before, during, or after a transaction, or that are due to theft, breaking the law, or breaching the Terms and Conditions agreement. Damages may include loss, injury, or expenses incurred.

Here is an example from ALO Yoga:

“You agree to defend, indemnify, and hold ALO, its directors, officers, employees, agents, and affiliates harmless from any and all claims, liabilities, damages, costs, and expenses, including reasonable attorneys’ fees, in any way arising from, related to or in connection with your use of the Site, your violation of the Terms, or the posting or transmission of any materials on or through the Site by you, including, but not limited to, any third-party claim that any information or materials you provide infringes any third-party proprietary right.”

Payment and Delivery Terms

The payment terms section describes the forms of payment that are acceptable to use for purchase. You may also include financing information if you allow your users that option. You may also detail fees, billing charges, and/or taxes.

Similarly, you can also outline the delivery terms here, including shipping time frames, methods, and options. If you have free shipping for orders over a certain monetary value, then you can also include that here. 

Casper has a great example of a payment terms clause: 

“The Site currently uses third parties to process payments. Our third-party payment processors accept payments through various credit cards, including Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover, as detailed on the applicable payment screen. You may also finance your purchase of Products through Affirm (in the United States) or PayBright (in Canada), as detailed on the payment screen.”

Termination Clause

Another immensely important section is the termination clause. This gives you the right to terminate any account or user should they violate your terms and conditions at your discretion. You may also include how your customers can terminate or cancel their own accounts, and what rules apply to that.

Shopify has a detailed cancellation and termination policy. It describes the steps that occur when an account is cancelled or terminated, and includes information on how to terminate your account.

Most termination clauses include a statement that the company or service reserves the right to terminate any account at any time for any reason.

Other Clauses to Consider Include:

Dispute Clause: Details how disputes are handled and resolved, as well as a simple statement detailing what country or state is the governing body that your business operates in. 

External or Third-Party Links: Informs your users that any third-party links are operated under that site’s terms and conditions, and that the third-party links can not be held liable for anything on your website.

Returns Clause: Describes the return policy, how your service handles returns, and how the user facilitates a return.

Cancellation Policies: Includes details about how to cancel orders.

How to Present Your Terms and Conditions

There are two different ways to present your website terms and conditions to your users.

You may have noticed that some websites have their Terms and Conditions page in the form of a hyperlink at the bottom of the website’s home page. This type of agreement is called a browse-wrap agreement. It is implied that you agree to the general-use rules just by using the website. There is no requirement to affirm that you have read the agreement with this kind of presentation.

The other way to present your terms and conditions is to require your user to check a box and then submit your agreement. This is called clickwrap. This style gives you proof that the user has agreed to your terms, and therefore gives you the most protection. An important note to keep in mind about using a clickwrap style of presentation is that you must have your terms and conditions available to read at the time that you are asking the user to review them and agree.  

Tips and Tools

It’s helpful to use a terms and conditions generator or find fill-in-the-blank outlines on the internet in order to make your agreement user friendly. Try to keep it organized and easy to read, and do not use too much legal jargon. Your users should be your priority, and they should be able to understand what they are agreeing to.

While it may be tempting, do not copy and paste agreements or portions of agreements from other sites. It seems like it would be an easy solution to creating one, but it is copyright infringement and is against the law.

Even if the creation of these documents seems easy, no amount of advice replaces professional help. We always recommend seeking legal counsel. 

Looking for an easy-to-use terms and conditions generator? Shopify has a free user-friendly tool to help you get started. Check it out. You can find additional business tools such as a business name generator and profit margin calculator here.

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