What’s the big deal? Why do I need to concern myself with terms and conditions for my website?
This is a common question I get asked by many online entrepreneurs.
I mean, I get it. You are just building your business, you are still doing a lot of freelancing and consulting on the side to supplement your income…
You don’t have time to worry about putting together a terms and conditions page for your website, do you?
I’ll be honest with you, and it’s not just because I’m a lawyer that sells templated forms, including terms and conditions for websites…
The terms and conditions page on your website is probably the most important page you will put on your site.
Don’t overlook this page – please take it seriously.
Why You Must Have a Rock Solid Legal Terms and Conditions Page for your Website
But let’s talk about it some more.
Starting with the basics… What is a terms and conditions page anyway?
Simply put, the terms and conditions page is a legal contract between your business (you have formed an LLC, right?) and the visitors to your website.
In this important legal document you tell your visitors what’s what – you tell them what they can do on your website, and what’s out of bounds. You might throw some legal disclaimers in there, protect yourself from lawsuits, limit your damages if you were to get sued, and make sure that you outline where they can sue you if they want.
You’ll also want to address the ownership of your intellectual property and specify what law will governs your terms and conditions policy.
Finally, you might also include some fancy provisions that require anyone who would want to sue you to mediate or even arbitrate their dispute with you before filing a lawsuit. This effectively locks them out of the courthouse.
So that’s all well and good, but what can happen if you don’t have a terms and conditions page on your site?
What type of legal exposure do you have?
Failing to Have a Terms and Conditions Page on Your Website is a No-No
I hope that it is obvious by now how important it is to have a terms and conditions policy for your website. And if you aren’t sold yet, let’s consider the downside risk to NOT having a terms and conditions page.
Is it really that big of a deal?
Well, actually… yes, it is.
And the more actionable information you provide on your website or blog, the more legal risk you take on if you don’t have a well-written terms and conditions page.
Here are a couple hypotheticals:
- Let’s say you are an anxiety coach and someone was using the information on your website to help them work through their anxiety and depression in lieu of seeing an actual therapist. Then they commit suicide. The family of the deceased may be looking for answers or someone to blame and they find your website on the decedent’s laptop. Guess who just became the first defendant in a wrongful death claim that was filed half way across the country?
- Someone posts some nice comments about you on your website. You decide to use those comments as a testimonial, but the person who left the comments didn’t give you permission. And now you are being charged with a copyright violation. Seem far-fetched? Maybe, but it happens all the time.
- Or perhaps you operate a woodworking blog and someone follows your advice on how to build a table but in doing so, cuts off a finger…
Don’t you love how us lawyers can come up with so many colorful examples? I could go all day…
But I think you get the idea.
A terms and conditions policy for your website will stop each of these incidents from happening.
Terms and Conditions for Websites – Where Do I Get One?
That’s a great question – I thought you would never ask.
There are four primary places that you could go to get a sample website terms and conditions drafted for you. Let’s look at them one by one.
1. Copy one from another website
I recognize that this seems like an easy way to get a terms and conditions document on the cheap. For reasons that should be apparent, this isn’t such a good idea.
First, copying (or rather, stealing) someone else’s terms and conditions page is considered plagiarism and copyright infringement.
And just because someone has a good looking terms and conditions policy doesn’t mean it is good for YOU and your business. They may have customized legal clauses that were drafted specifically for them and won’t help or apply to you, clauses that may actually hurt you and what you are trying to do, or perhaps their contract was poorly drafted and does not have many important clauses, disclaimers or other legal provisions that should be included in your terms and conditions contract.
So please resist the temptation to steal your terms and conditions page from another website.
2. Use an Online Terms and Conditions Generator
I suppose if you have no other option, using a free or low cost terms and conditions generator is better than nothing. I still discourage it, and here’s why…
Many of these online contract generators are bland and generic – especially the free ones. They are worded in a way to cover the broadest range of websites and businesses, and consequently are very generic. In addition, they frequently omit many of the most important provisions that you may need for your website, or have very poorly drafted clauses that won’t give you much protection in court.
Remember that you get what you pay for, and free and low-cost templates like these are typically insufficient for your legal needs.
3. Hire a Lawyer
Hiring a lawyer is clearly the best option. A good lawyer can put together a terms and conditions policy that will protect you and your website without breaking your bank.
The cost for drafting a customized online terms and conditions contract shouldn’t run you much more than $1,000 – but different lawyers will have different rates. You would need to check around.
Here at Hawthorn Law, we offer flat rates to prepare these types of documents for you. We are still building out our legal template services, Just fill out our contact form and let us know what you are looking for.
4. Take a hybrid approach
What do I mean by hybrid approach? Use the best of both worlds. Get a sample terms and conditions policy for your website for a reasonable price, packaged with instruction and guidance from a lawyer regarding how to properly prepare the form.
You can check out our ala carte legal templates here. Each template comes with a video tutorial and instructions.
In addition, this coming September we are launching a DIY Legal program that will bundle some of the most popular templates together, with some additional DIY Legal Courses and live Q&A calls. And now through launch day we are offering a special discount to early action takers. Click here for all the details.