As the owner of a website that provides information or products to your users, it’s important to have a clearly written terms and conditions (T&C) page. Especially if you collect information from users in the form of email addresses or product order information you need to make it clear how it will be handled, saved, and returned if requested.
There are several minimum requirements you should start with – basic necessities that all T&Cs should have to protect you. Let’s look like at what these entail and some of the other elements that you might consider including.
8 Key Elements of Your Terms and Conditions
- Conditions of Use
- Intellectual Property
- Affiliate Disclosure
- Returns and Cancellations
Minimum Requirements for Your Terms and Conditions
These are the building blocks of a good T&C page for your website – the basic items that frequently arise and should be addressed in a clearly written format for future visitors:
Conditions of Use
The conditions of use clause often starts the page and outlines in detail the expected “transaction” of information or goods that will occur on the website. In this section, you should cover:
- The specific goods, resources, or information offered by your website.
- The activity that the user is likely to use in visiting your website.
- A reference to all of the terms and conditions that follow on the website.
- Additional rules or guidelines that might be in effect for the use of specific features on the site (such as reviews, comments, or other user-generated content).
The nature of your conditions of use section will partially depend on the nature of your website and the level of public communication that occurs between users and site operators.
In your T&C this means discussing specific elements of how privacy is handled including:
- What personal information you will use and store in your database
- The processes by which that personal information is protected.
On websites where users can submit information in the form of comments, questions, reviews, or otherwise, include an intellectual property clause that clarifies ownership of the information they submit. Additionally, clarify your own policies and how you plan to handle and enforce copyright of your intellectual property.
If you are selling products or goods, a separate clause may be needed to indicate the display of items with intellectual property that you do not own.
Your liability disclaimer is designed to protect your company from any liabilities that extend beyond the transaction that occurs on your website. This includes things like:
- Disclaiming responsibility for liability, loss, injury or damage from the use of a product sold on your website, after the transaction has occurred.
- An outline of your warranty information for products you sell directly.
- Resources and links to other T&Cs for specific products or services referenced or offered on your website.
If you run a blog and publish any form of reviews or articles promoting products that users can purchase either directly or indirectly through your website, you’ll need an affiliate disclosure.
Designed to meet Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requirements to disclose your affiliate relationship with a company for which you are selling goods, an affiliate disclosure should include:
- Link to your disclosure as close to your affiliate links and product summaries as possible.
- Be clear about what an “affiliate relationship” means. Tell people you will make money if they take a certain action.
- Summarize where you promote products and under what conditions, both on your blog and on social media and other mediums.
- If you have a policy of using and recommending products that you promote, be sure to mention that as it can help turn your disclosure into more of a selling point.
- Create both a short and long version of your disclosure. The full version will fully summarize your relationships and legal obligations whereas the shorter one can be delivered with affiliate links and recommendations.
Additional Terms and Conditions Clauses for E-commerce Sites
The following sections apply to e-commerce businesses. If you sell goods, either physical or digital, via your website, then your T&C should have these sections as well.
Your shipping policy (or delivery terms) will outline the basic shipping structure your online store offers. Some of the elements stores list here include:
- How to qualify for free shipping
- Processing and handling time for new orders
- The range of shipping options offered
- When extra shipping fees might apply
- The carriers used for shipping
- Locations served and different policies affecting international shipping
Return and Cancellation Policy
It’s important to list in detail how you accept and process returns – if there are fees involved, if there is a time limit or other qualifying factors that might influence if and for how much a return is accepted. Specific elements include:
- Timeframe for return of merchandise
- The condition the merchandise must be in
- Who to contact and how to initiate a return
- Any exceptions to your return policy
- Any fees associated with restocking or packaging
- The timeframe during which you can cancel an order if it has not yet shipped
Payment Terms and Fees
While it might seem obvious, it’s important to clearly outline how payments are processed when someone purchases an item from your online store. Specific things you should cover include:
- The terms by which payment must be received for a product to be shipped
- Any fees associated with the purchase not related to shipping
- How taxes are collected and processed based on the location of the buyer
In addition to outlining your payment terms in detail in your T&C consider adding a link to the page in the checkout process. Some retailers even require users to accept the T&C before they can complete checkout.
Building a Terms and Conditions Page that Protects Your Company
The goal of a good T&C page is to ensure your users fully understand their relationship and legal obligations when using your website. It also outlines how you will handle your responsibility in protecting their information during and after transactions. This is an important resource that is increasingly regulated by several state and needs to be reflective of your business as much as possible.