Get your terms and conditions right

Having good terms and conditions on your website is essential for setting up a good relationship with your customers, especially if you are selling goods and services.

Set out a clear contract of purchase with your duties, rights and responsibilities, and you will protect both yourself and your customers.

What’s more, if you are selling products online, e-commerce regulations state that you must make customers aware of the terms and conditions of trade.

Where do you start?

Terms and conditions should include clear guidelines on everything relating to your website and the way customers interact with it. This can include use of images and your branding, storage of personal details, and posting comments.

The golden rule for good terms and conditions is clarity. Make sure every point is clear and easy to understand. And don’t hide them where no one can find them.

What do you need to include?

  • Copyright: protect your brand and content by adding a clear copyright or trademark notice .
  • Payment terms: be clear on the payment terms for your goods and services. This could save you a lot of time chasing late payments and will help you to keep clear accounts.
  • Returns and refunds: if you are selling goods or services you will need a strong and comprehensive policy on refunds and returns.
  • Breakage policy: if you are selling goods then there may be a chance they could get lost or damaged in the delivery process. Make sure you clearly state your responsibilities and replacement policy in your terms and conditions.
  • Guarantees: state what they include, how long they are valid and anything that could invalidate them.
  • Limiting liability: if people are able to post comments or images on your site you should add a disclaimer to state that these are not endorsed by you and are not your responsibility. If someone posts something libellous or offensive you should be able to remove it as soon as possible.

Do I need a hard copy?

Electronic copies of terms and conditions will be legally sound if people have actively agreed to them (ticking the box). However, having the terms and conditions in hard copy means that you have written evidence that you can produce in court if you need to.

If you are setting up large contracts of trade that will run over a long period of time and generate a lot of income, it is worthwhile getting a paper copy of the terms and conditions, and making sure that your client signs it.

Privacy policy

It is a good idea to add a separate privacy policy to your website. This will ensure that you and your customers are clear on how you will store and use any personal data they supply. The privacy policy doesn’t need to be long or complicated. If you’re using a lot of sensitive personal data, such as credit card information, it’s a good idea to have a lawyer draw up the privacy policy for you. If not, there are plenty of good examples online that you can use as a template.

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