March 14, 2023
As the digital shopfront of your business, your website is pretty important. It houses business information, your products and services, many legal obligations, and countless landing pages designed to connect your business with would-be customers. However, engaging those customers comes with terms and conditions, particularly when a transaction is made. But, how do you regulate the actions taken on your website? Enter, the website terms of service.
Sometimes referred to as website terms and conditions, this agreement covers exactly what it says on the tin. It includes information related to the terms for using the site, outlines the intellectual property rights of the site, and regulates the sale of services on a website. In this article, we dive into the nitty gritty of website terms of service. We tackle when to use one, what needs to be included, and the legal risks of failing to have website terms of service in place.
First up, let’s address the basics.
Website terms of service are used to regulate the sale of services on a website. It tackles things like legal liability on behalf of the supplier, terms and conditions related to services, and intellectual property rights.
The relationship between a customer and supplier can be unwieldy, and without an agreement in place, the parameters of the relationship are vague at best. It’s crucial that a company has an agreement in place that outlines its legal obligations, legal liability, and the terms that relate to the delivery of services. Without one, a business can be at risk of unlimited liability, be in breach of consumer protection laws, and be legally vulnerable in the event of a challenge - without a contract in place to use as a defence.
It’s worth noting that consumer protection law obliges companies to inform customers before they make a purchase, which is where well drafted-terms of service come into play. You’ll need to ensure your website terms of service are fit-for-purpose, bespoke, and offer robust legal protections for your business.
Now onto the nitty gritty - what should you website terms of service include? Below we tackle just some of the key areas you should focus on when considering website terms of service.
Website terms of service will outline details related to the supply of services. You’ll want to consider things like the scope of services delivered, expectations around quality or standard of service, notes on price and payment, and the potential risks associated with the service - and the extent to which a customer is protected.
While most of your customers will be happy, from time to time you’ll need to deal with disputes related to your services. Your website terms of service will need to include clear information related to your refund policy and how a customer can lodge a complaint.
Up next, liability. You’ll want to address the obligations on you as a supplier, the standard of delivery a customer can expect, and the degree to which you or the customer is liable in the event of fallout (let’s say if a product is faulty, or a service is not delivered to the standard expected).
The intellectual property of your business is particularly important, and it’s crucial that you have legal infrastructure in place that is designed to protect it. Your website terms of service should address how your IP should be approached, what would constitute infringement, and enforce the rights of your IP. For example, if a customer buys your goods or services, you’ll want to explain in clear terms that this does not give them the right to repurpose or copy your intellectual property.
While the goal is to keep customers happy for the long haul, it’s a natural part of business that contractual relationships will ebb, flow, and at times, come to an end. It’s important you “prepare for the divorce” in advance, and clearly outline the process for termination - and the circumstances under which it’s legally viable. Without this in place, you may leave your business without an airtight defence.
From unlimited liability to breach of consumer protection laws, the absence of website terms of service can lump any company into legal hot water. That’s why it’s crucial that you not only have one in place - but that it’s bespoke to the needs of your business.
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