Most businesses are online now and have signed up options on their Website so that you can do business immediately. Your debt collection terms are the first thing you need to put online from the beginning. So it’s important send a message to your customers that you are serious about getting paid.
However, this article will explain some of what our legal team does, and some of the lessons we can pass on, about writing Terms for online businesses.
What are website Terms and Conditions?
The website Terms and Conditions (Ts&Cs) are a detailed legal notice which states the terms that customers of your website must agree to to use your products and services. Website Ts&Cs are intended for those users, subscribers, and customers of your website.
Why do I need Terms and Conditions?
Website Terms clarify to consumers what the terms are about and under which conditions they are purchasing goods and services. They inform visitors on services, functions, and limitations of the website. They inform potential customers about your terms of service and business practices. They help you meet regulatory requirements, such as privacy legislation, visitor and customer data collection. They help avoid customer complaints.
When you explicitly state your terms and conditions, it helps prevent misunderstandings and potential customer complaints.
They can also limit your liability, say for claims for damages from purchasers of your products or services or subscribers to your Website.
In addition, having well-written, plain English T’s & C’s shows potential customers you are serious about your operation and even more serious about getting paid. Website visitors will frequently check your refund policy and your cancellation penalties, also penalties for non-payment, before purchase. Having all of your terms available in the first instance will send a strong message that they will feel safe and secure about proceeding with your products or services.
Do I need Global Terms and Conditions if I sell overseas?
Unfortunately, “global” or universal Terms and Conditions do not exist. Writing the Terms for every legal jurisdiction in the world would be almost impossible. Or at least it would be like a mammoth task (and no one would bother to read them).
However, you can do two things if you sell to both Australian and overseas consumers:
- Include a Governing Law clause in your terms which states the location of your business and the laws governing your Terms of business, or
- Begin with Australian Terms and Conditions. Once your business grows, ensure compliance in your other major markets, such as the UK and US, by having your Terms reviewed.
Your Governing Law clause says any customer claims must be made in the Australian State you nominate or where your head office is located.
What should be the coverage of Website Terms and Conditions notice?
If you sell services or products online, it is a MUST that you have Terms and Conditions complying with the up to date Australian Consumer Law. To ensure compliance, The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) frequently checks websites and issues fines or punishments for those non-compliant.
Australian Consumer Law specifies that you should include in your Website Terms the following details:
- A statement that indicates compliance with Australian Consumer Law
- Steps on how to process a refund, repair, or even replacement of faulty and defective products
- The guarantee details, and
- The warranty details (if available provide one)
So these are the least legal requirements that your Website needs to include. Also, we recommend that your Terms must consist of:
- Details of the shipping options and the expected delivery dates
- If payment is not done immediately, payment terms must be laid out (e.g. “net 30 days”)
- If you offer a subscription payment for product or service cancellation policy should be available
- For potential damages claimed by your customers, the limitation of liability clause must be clear
- Notifications about the collection of data and privacy policies
- Warnings about stealing and theft of your website content and ideas
- Details about any third party relationships and corresponding responsibilities of each
- Any other Terms that are important and specific to your business
- Governing Law clause stating the location of your business and the State law governing your business
Is there a need to get legal advice when writing my Terms and Conditions?
We are lawyers. Therefore, we highly recommend that you always seek legal advice when writing and finalizing your Terms. Nevertheless, standard templates can protect online businesses 80% of the time or more. However, it would be best if you were mindful and careful in offering unusual product or service that in any way risky. Or you, yourself, are unsure and uncertain about your product, then definitely, you must consult a lawyer.
Is there a need to update my Terms and Conditions?
Yes. From time to time, legislation affecting online businesses in Australia changes, and your website Terms and Conditions must be aligned and kept up to date.
How visible should my Website Terms and Conditions be?
It is essential that your website Terms are visible and easily located. They should be accessible and seen from every page on your website.
If you do not make your Terms obvious and easily seen, customers who sue and file complaints against you might argue that your business terms were not disclosed to them, were ambiguous, and/or were intentionally ‘hidden’.
What are the suggested and recommended best practices you have for writing Terms and Conditions?
Lastly, some best practice suggestions for the Terms and Conditions are are important parts of operating a professional online business. The following should be kept in mind:
- Ensure your Terms are easy to comprehend (plain English)
- Format your Terms with clear headers and put significant clauses in bold
- Create a consistent set of Terms on your Website, quotes and invoices
- Empathize with your customers and make your Terms fair and reasonable
- Also, if you have an App, you will need Terms for that too.
We hope you found this guide on How to Write Terms and Conditions for your website helpful.