Website Series, Part 2: Why Your Website Needs Terms & Conditions – And What it Should Say
► Two, it sets clear expectations of your users, as well as some ground rules that must be followed when it comes to how your website may and may not be used (your site, your rules – always remember that);
► Three, it covers your ass in the event that a client, customer, e-mail recipient, or website visitor decides to start a dispute about your content/products/services (including any injuries allegedly suffered as a result of relying on, or using said content/products/services).
Since your Terms document, whatever you ultimately choose to call it, is a legally binding contract that effectively defines the legal parameters of the relationship between you and your visitors/clients, you want to make sure that it
a) accurately reflects YOUR policies (so don’t copy and paste from Amazon or one of your competitors, because the rules they have set for their visitors won’t necessarily fit YOUR business and it would be a shame to get sued over promises in your contract you didn’t even know you made); and
b) contains the most essential provisions generally found in Terms and Conditions, including the following:
✔ A BASIC DISCLAIMER stating that you are not liable for any errors in your content or your visitors’ misuse of the information presented on the site.
✔ COPYRIGHT AND TRADEMARK NOTICES putting your visitors on notice that you own all of the content on the site.
✔ FORUM SELECTION AND CHOICE OF LAW CLAUSES stating where litigation may be brought, and which state’s law governs the contract.
✔ DESCRIPTION(S) OF ANY PRODUCTS/SERVICES and what visitors should and should not expect from it.
✔ YOUR GROUND RULES explaining what kind of behavior is allowed (and not allowed) on your site, and a notice to visitors that if they break your rules, they may be blocked.
✔ A LINKED SITE DISCLAIMER advising your visitors that if they click on any link to another website, you are not responsible for anything they might see, experience or purchase there.
✔ ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION CLAUSE, if you want disputes to be resolved quickly and efficiently through mediation or binding arbitration, rather than a lengthy and expensive court battle.
✔ YOUR PAYMENT TERMS, including when payment is due and forms of payment accepted.
✔ YOUR CANCELLATION, RETURN, REFUND, AND LATE PAYMENT POLICIES that outline what you’re going to do when a customer is late, or requests a cancellation or refund – you need to have these rules posted in your Terms document BEFORE a sale takes place, otherwise they’re not enforceable.
Of course, additional clauses will be required, but the above list should help you at least get on the right track in terms of the types of issues you need to consider when coming up with the Terms and Conditions for your website(s).
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