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Model website terms and conditions that will protect your business

Getting your website T&C right might not be your most pressing task when you are building or redeveloping a site, but they are critical to your business.

We have over 45 website terms and conditions templates (also know as online terms and conditions, terms of website use, and website user agreement), each designed to suit a different type of website or business model. The majority of these are free templates, provided you attribute our copyright in them.

Terms for retailers and service providers

These templates are for businesses that sell good or services through their website.

They cover physical goods, services whether delivered online or offline, software and other products that are downloaded, and tickets and bookings.

Terms for blogs, news and information websites

Websites that simply publish information don't require the terms of sale that ecommerce sites need.

If you run a blog, a reference website, an online magazine or newspaper or a community site, your terms should state who owns content and rules regulating visitor behaviour.

Terms for websites that connect buyers and sellers

We call sites that connect buyers and sellers marketplace websites.

The market may be for products or services of any type, and may require either side to register as a member before being allowed to trade.

Therefore these terms include rules for transactions to which your site is not party, and behaviour as a registered buyer or seller.

Terms for websites that require membership or subscription

Websites that foster a community - whether online or offline - require additional terms relating to behaviour as part of that community.

Whether you operate a sports club that allows members to book facilities and arrange matches online, or a fan site that encourages discussion, we provide you with protection from misbehaviour.

What are website terms and conditions?

Website terms and conditions, abbreviated to T&C, can be several things.

The word term and the word condition mean the same thing. 'Term' comes from the Latin terminus meaning a boundary or limit, while 'condition' comes from the old French word condicion meaning agreement. Like other legal documents with names that are the joining of two words with similar meanings (such as a last will and testament), the name has probably come about through common use to avoid ambiguity.

Your T&C are the terms on which you are willing to make an agreement. They are the conditions on which you agree to make a contract.

Usually, they are on a 'take-it or leave-it' basis, in that they are non-negotiable by the other side. It is usually the seller or the service provider that sets out what they are willing to accept.

Website T&C can be the terms that relate to your use of the website, effectively, terms of use of the website, they can be terms of sale of products sold through the website, terms of service for services ordered or managed through your website, or terms for any other contract that just happen to be published on your website. For most except basic websites, they are a mixture of two or more.

Do you need terms and conditions on your website?

We know from experience that when you create a website, writing the legal information pages sits on the backburner compared to other tasks. It would be nice not to have to write them.

Whether you need a set of website terms and conditions is really two questions - do you need T&C and do you need to place them on your website.

Do you need terms at all?

Since your terms are the basis of a contract, like any other contract they are not legally binding unless certain criteria are met. Those criteria include you knowing who the other person is, and that person accepting the terms.

If you just have a basic information site, such as a blog or a product catalogue, where there is no interaction other than browsing, you might not be able to meet the criteria to form a contract.

However, that doesn't mean that you shouldn't publish website T&C - they can make your site look more professional and they can dissuade people from acting against your rules - but you need to be aware that you won't be able to enforce them.

If you sell online

If you sell products or services then you will enter into a contract, whether that contract is written or not.

There is no legal requirement to place your T&C on your website rather than anywhere else (for example, you might send all or some by email or post). But your website is a convenient, logical place to put them, particularly if the most of the transaction is also carried out online.

An advantage of publishing your terms online is that you can control when the contract is made.

Unless you state otherwise in your terms, most websites would be considered to be making what is know as an 'invitation to treat' - an offer to sell something. If your customer accepts, then you have a legal obligation to sell that product or service to them at the price advertised.

By stating in your terms that your website does not make an invitation to treat, you can change when the contract comes into existence. Your customer makes an offer, and you have the opportunity to accept or decline. This can be useful if you don't have a product in stock, or if you've mis-priced the product by accident, or simply that you don't want to sell to the customer at all.

Your terms also allow you to strengthen your rights against your website visitor.  For example, you can include terms that prevent your website users from acting maliciously against you or each other. You can define the rules of what is acceptable (an Acceptable Use Policy) and what is not.

In some cases, the law might require you to give certain information to your customer or client, and publishing that information online can also demonstrate that you are complying with the requirement to make clear this information.

Could you copy terms and conditions from another website?

You should be careful about copying another business' T&C.

There may be copyright in the words themselves. By copying them, you may be infringing copyright.

You also should make sure that if you do copy anyone else's terms that those terms are applicable to your business or organisation. Not only must their business model be identical but also the applicable law. If you copy the terms of a similar business in California, when you are based in England, you may be complying with rules that you don't need to follow, and you may not be complying with law that applies in the UK.

You also may not have any assurance that their terms are any good. They may not comply with the law or they may give stronger protection to their customers than you need to give. Someone else's terms may not protect you as well as they protect them.

We recommend that you shouldn't blindly copy the T&C of a similar business. It is better to write your own because you then can be sure that everything is included for legal compliance and to fit your business model exactly. If you have some knowledge, however, you can use another business' T&C for ideas to include in your own.

What you will find in our templates

All our website terms and conditions templates provide terms of use, that set out what users may and may not do when they interact with your site. If users also transact, then we also include terms of sale as applicable to the business model you have.

Not all terms appear in all templates. Each has been drawn to suit the model we intend to protect.

Use of plain English strengthens the document

Consistent use of plain English and minimal 'legalese' throughout helps because:

  1. you can set out clearly how your business works and what your site users can expect
  2. it prevent misunderstandings and makes solving disputes easier
  3. it presents a professional image
  4. it helps ensure customers do not feel intimidated by overly formal or legalistic language
  5. it makes a template easy for you to change

Extensive guidance to help you edit the template

With each website terms and conditions template we include extensive guidance notes that explain each paragraph. Despite our efforts to draw documents for common business models, there will be paragraphs in the document that you will want to add to or change. That is fine, and we can check your edits as part of our additional review service if you would like confirmation that they fit.

Site security and restrictions on what your user may post to your website

We take site security very seriously. Having strong terms is not going to stop crime, but it does:

  • provide a deterrent to any misuse for which you could sue in court
  • prevent you being blamed for a criminal or nuisance activity
  • reduce the chance of your being the subject of some bad social medium campaign - particularly important if your members can contribute content to your site that you might not moderate in real time
  • show your site in a strong and purposeful way, giving out a message that you are not a 'soft touch'
  • assist in protecting you from a civil or criminal offense for which you may otherwise be liable as a result of what someone else posts to your website
  • provide permission for you to remove offensive content and generally stay in full control of what happens on your website

By using these provisions, we give you the best possible defence against anyone who claims he has been insulted, injured, or defamed.

Particular terms which are included where relevant

Disclaimers

We provide disclaimers. They are not always legally binding because you can disclaim only so far as the law allows. The rules are complicated and much depends on the facts of each case. If you overstep the mark, your disclaimer will be void.

We use disclaimers strongly but we use words that we hope will avoid upsetting your clients and customers.

Intellectual property protection

We include clauses that provides the strongest protection for your IP rights, whether your business is IP light or involves complex systems.

For instance, if you run an informational site and you had website designed exclusively for you that includes graphics an written content, you have to protect your intellectual property rights in such things (such as your website's content) to ensure that whatever is on your website will not be replicated or used elsewhere.

Suitable for websites with international visitors

These website terms and conditions are written for international use because most websites are likely to attract users from across the world.

These legal documents are drawn under the law of England and Wales. Much is likely to be enforceable in many other legal jurisdictions as well.

Scotland and Northern Ireland have adopted the same rules in the vast majority of cases.

Adverts

Your revenue model might include showing ads. Our legal documents do not regulate the terms of any advertising. That deal is between you and your advertiser, rather than between you and your users. But we do include general terms intended to protect you from claims about adverts.

Personal data storage

We make sure your user does not expect you to keep their personal data indefinitely, or at all. We also cover you against any claim that you are in breach of any user's rights.

Basis of Contract

A contract is only formed if your visitor ticks a box to do so explicitly. No tick, no contract. So if you have a site that is entirely open to use, or even pages than can be explored before registration, it cannot be fully protected by T&C. Despite that principle, there are times when your terms and conditions could apply, so it is always worth having them.

Confidential Information

Your confidential information is defined at length. We help you safeguard all your secrets.

Terms for selling goods and services

E-commerce terms

When you choose a sample website terms and conditions template, you will see that we do not repeat the same points about e-commerce in the details of every document. You may safely take it that if your site is likely to be e-commerce enabled, we shall make sure you are covered.

Price and payment

We give you options on every part of the charging process, from straight unit price to royalty, to payment on running credit account, to commission on sales. Like all other terms, we make it easy for you by limiting options to what is appropriate for a site like yours.

Defects

We provide sensible terms. However, if you sell defective goods or services you are obliged to pay for all foreseeable resulting loss and expense. That is the common law, pre-dating any sale of goods act.

Marketplace terms

We define a marketplace site as one where the website operator is an intermediary, providing a platform from which someone else sells products or services to buyers who come to the site.

Because each marketplace website has its own operational model, we provide separate legal agreements for terms with buyers and sellers. You should therefore buy a pair of documents: one with terms for your sellers and one with terms for the buyers.

Seller side documents vary far less than buyer side documents so we have not provided exact matches. Only you know which of each side best suits your business model. If you need help choosing, please ask.

We offer several options for sale of services because that word covers such a vast range.

We try to avoid you being an agent, but rather a publisher. However, the range of services you offer and the fact that you collect money may well categorise you as an agent. We know of no court cases on this point.

We do our utmost to insulate you from problems between a seller and a buyer. We push seller obligations onto your sellers and direct a buyer to his or her seller, leaving you as clean as possible.

However, as an intermediary, you still have to comply with the CC(ICAC) Regulations. We have covered that of course.

All market place documents include:

  • a framework of rules as to how a seller places a product or service with you
  • the fact that you do not hold stock
  • e-commerce: prices, your remuneration options, return of goods, taxes
  • your payment options: a commission basis, a transaction fee basis, through advertising, or not at all
  • upload by sellers of their own product pages or product advertisements
  • joint advertising to sellers
  • options for regular sellers (for example, ones that operate their business entirely from your site), and one-off sales

Membership websites

Membership websites vary widely. You can use a membership model not only to provide products or services but also to publish information or regulate a free service.

A key point in paid membership websites' business models is how and when to obtain payment. You cannot unilaterally renew a contract. However, if you continue a course of action and your user accepts or acquiesces, he cannot later complain if he has continued to enjoy the services. In reality many Internet contracts are continued from year to year. We cover this thoroughly of course.

The best way to deal with this issue is to provide a warning to a member about four weeks before you take money, with a copy of the invoice against which payment will be taken. You then take the money on the due date and send a new message to your user to confirm.

Licensing arrangements

Why a licence might be relevant

If you own a car, you can sell it only once. Not so with IP. You 'sell' a right to perform your music or print your image by way of grant of a licence. Every website terms and conditions template drawn for a site which allows use of its IP includes a licence in some form.

So whenever, we consider the sale of software or soft-copy goods we are dealing with a licence, not an outright sale.

Limitations and permissions on licences

Permissions concern simple expressions of duration, territory, market, timescale, and so on. Limitations generally cover what your user is not allowed to do. Examples are: transfer ownership of their licence to someone else; copy text; allow anyone else to use the software. These points are matters for your choice.

A licence is infinitely variable. You can decide on the term, exclusivity, market, transferability, extent and many more variables. Other options include: sub-licensing, removing ID references and prohibited uses.

Every licence in these documents contains appropriate limitations and permissions. The extent and terms of the licence varies from simple to extremely thorough. What we provide in each licence varies according to the requirement of the product.

Licence terms in these documents are:

  • professionally drawn and tough in law
  • useful for both business to business or business to consumer models
  • easy for you to adapt if you need to do so

The law in these terms and conditions documents

Where your user is a consumer, you need to follow the Consumer Contracts (ICAC) 2013 Regulations, the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and Alternative Dispute Regulations 2015. Therefore, whether you are a marketplace site or a direct seller, we have included paragraphs in our templates that provide legal compliance.

Where your customer is a business person, our templates allow you to comply with the Sale of Goods Acts (1979 and 1994).

Where statute law could apply, the T&C have been drawn then applies to specific circumstances, for example, we have included terms required under the Waste Electronic and Electrical Equipment Regulations 2013, but these are only applicable if the type of goods sold is electronic or electrical.

Why choose Net Lawman

Immediate delivery of the document template by e-mail after checkout
DocX file format compatible with all popular PC & Mac word processing software. We can convert into other formats for you
Use of plain English makes our documents easy to edit and understand
Detailed guidance notes explain the purpose of each paragraph and how to edit
Review service available - a Net Lawman lawyer can check your edited document
Full money back guarantee if the document isn't right for you