How to Write Terms and Conditions for Your Website – the Legal123 guide. Pretty much everything you need to know about posting Terms and Conditions on your online business website in Australia.
We sell a great, all-in-one website legal package that includes Terms and Conditions – so there is no need to discuss specific legal wording in this article. However, we will explain the ins and outs of “T&Cs” and pass on some of the lessons learned from over 6 years of writing Terms and Conditions for Australian online businesses.
This guide is divided into 2 sections: a Quick Guide with the top 5 FAQs and then the Complete Guide with answers to every question you might have about How to Write Terms and Conditions for Your Website.
Quick Guide – Top 5 FAQs
Click on the question to reveal the answer.
Do I need Terms and Conditions for my website?
- If you are selling online, then Yes. And selling online includes:
- Transacting sales via an eCommerce or online store website
- Advertising products and services for sale via telephone or physical store, or
- Advertising products and services for a 3rd party (e.g. Classifieds website)
All of these types of websites need to post Terms and Conditions. If you are selling goods and services to Australian consumers (either yourself or on behalf of others) and you do not have Terms and Conditions posted, then you may be breaching Australian Consumer Law. And the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is getting more aggressive about catching sites that are not complying and fining them.
Why have Terms and Conditions on my website?
- Website Terms and Conditions clarify to consumers the Terms under which they are purchasing good and services from you. These Terms need to be comprehensive and specifically include your delivery, return and refund policies. There are two important reasons to post Terms and Conditions on your website:
- To avoid any misunderstandings between you and your customers, and
- To show potential customers you are a professional operation
Website visitors will often check your refund policy or shipping options before purchase – and if you don’t bother to explain these, then you’ll never get the sale!
I sell overseas. Do I need worldwide Terms and Conditions?
- Unfortunately there is no such thing as “worldwide” Terms and Conditions. It would be almost impossible to write Terms for every legal jurisdiction in the world – or at least it would be a mammoth task (and no one would read them).
But there are two things you can do if you sell to both Australian and overseas consumers:
- Include a Governing Law clause in your “T&Cs” that states where your business is located and the law under which your Terms of business are governed, or
- Start with Australian Terms and Conditions and once your business grows have Terms written for your other major markets, such as the UK and US
Your Governing Law clause means any customer claims must be made in the Australian State you nominate. There’s more detail about this issue in one of our recent blog posts, so go check out worldwide Terms & Conditions here.
Is it OK to copy Terms and Conditions from someone else’s website?
- Absolutely not! And there are three reasons why:
- You are putting your business and yourself at risk by potentially posting Terms that are not related to your business on your website
- The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is now checking eCommerce websites randomly and issuing penalties to non-compliant sites, which includes sites that have duplicate Terms that don’t relate to the website, and
- You’re breaching someone else’s Copyright by re-posting their work
Here at Legal123 we’ve seen it all. One business didn’t understand what Governing Law or Jurisdiction meant and ended up having to fly to California to defend a dispute in a Californian court for products sold in Australia. All because they copied their Terms and Conditions from a US website and left in the Californian Jurisdiction clause.
Someone even copied our Terms and Conditions and left our name, Legal123, in their Terms!
Should I use a free Terms and Conditions generator?
- Of course not! We sell the best, inexpensive, all-in-one-website legal package in Australia. So why would you take the chance with your business?
Here are 4 reasons to avoid free Terms and Conditions templates:
- You don’t know if the Terms are up-to-date and compliant with the latest Australian Law
- The Terms and Conditions are unlikely to relate to your specific business (e.g. personal training, photography, etc.), and
- What if you have a question – who do you call?
- Free is free for a reason – there is usually a catch (e.g. they want your email address, to up-sell you, etc.)
Some of the advantages of the Legal123 website Terms and Conditions package: We guarantee our templates are up-to-date with the latest legislation and we email you free updates when there is a significant change. In the template you can select from different types of business, including:
- eCommerce/Online store
- Fitness/Exercise website
- Dietary/Sports Supplements website
- Food/Catering website
- Education/Lifecoaching website
- Classifieds website
- Photography website, and
- Financial Broker website
Plus if your business has specific characteristics or risks, we can help you by writing additional clauses to cover these. And you can call us with any questions you have.
If you have an eCommerce Website or Online Store you need Terms and Conditions
Website Terms and Conditions explicitly state the terms that visitors, users and customers of your website must agree to in order to browse your website, buy your products or to use your services. They protect you from customers claiming to have suffered loss from your content or using your products or services. They also protect you from visitors of your website copying your content, claiming damages from viruses, etc.
eCommerce websites and online stores are at greater risk of things going wrong – compared to a simple online brochure-type website or blog. They, therefore, need to have comprehensive website Terms and Conditions. In addition, certain types of websites are inherently more “risky” and so need Terms to protect their owners, for example:
- Personal training, fitness and exercise websites
- Medical and health advice-type websites
- Food, diet and sports supplements websites
- Financial transaction and financial advice-type websites
- Online dating and meet-up websites and apps
- Website design, data storage and IT services
Your website Terms and Conditions is legally required to have …
If you sell products or services online you MUST have Terms and Conditions that comply with the latest Australian Consumer Law. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) checks websites and issues penalties if you’re non-compliant.
The latest Australian Consumer Law stipulates that you must include the following details in your website Terms and Conditions:
- A statement that you comply with Australian Consumer Law
- How you will provide a refund, repair or replacement of faulty products
- Details of your guarantee, and
- Details of your warranty (if you provide one, which is not obligatory)
So those are the minimum legal requirements that your Terms need to include. In addition, we recommend your Terms include:
- Details of shipping options and expected delivery times
- Payment terms if payment is not immediate (e.g. “net 30 days”)
- Cancellation policy if you offer a subscription payment product or service
- Limitation of liability clause for potential claims of damages by your customers
- Notifications about privacy and data collection policies
- Warnings about stealing your website content or copying your ideas
- Details of any third party relationships and who has responsibility for what
- Any other Terms specific to your business and important to you
- Governing Law clause stating your business location and the law under which your Terms are governed
The two expressions, Website Disclaimer and Terms and Conditions, are often confused. However, an online standard is emerging with the term “Website Disclaimer” being used for websites that provide information only, such as a company brochure-type website. Then the term “Website Terms and Conditions” is used for websites that provide a paid-for product, service or subscription.
A Website Disclaimer is generally less detailed, protects against website visitor claims and offers less protection than Website Terms and Conditions. Terms and Conditions are generally for paying customers, are more detailed and include a Limitation of Liability.
For more information, we have written this simple infographic explaining the difference between T&Cs, Disclaimers and Privacy Policies.
Your Terms and Conditions page needs to be easily found
Some online business owners prefer to have 3 separate links, others prefer to combine the 3 notices into one “Legal Notices” page. If you don’t make your Terms obvious and easily found, customers who sue you might argue that your Terms were not disclosed to them, were ambiguous or were intentionally ‘hidden’.
Use a checkbox to get “active agreement”
If you are particularly concerned about the use of your website by customers and fully protecting yourself, you might wish to make acceptance of the website Terms and Conditions a condition of sale or entry into your website. Ticking a Terms and Conditions checkbox is called “active agreement” and gives you an extra level of protection. It is not required but it makes the argument that they were ‘not aware of your Terms’ a difficult one.
In general, there are 3 options for checkbox placement:
- Checkbox with link saying “I agree to” or “I have read” your Terms and Conditions next to your “Add to Cart” button
- A popup window or page during the checkout process where a customer can read your Terms and Conditions and click an “Agree” button at the bottom, or
- To enter the website your customer is presented with the Terms and Conditions of the website and needs to agree before entering and browsing
Whether you chose to get “active agreement” is a business decision. It can add “friction” to the purchase process. If you’re selling simple products – like keychains or ringtones – it’s probably unnecessary. But if you’re selling higher risk products – like health or food related, financial or coaching advice – then it’s probably a good idea.
In addition, if you plan on selling any customer or subscriber data to 3rd parties (so they can market to your customers and subscribers) then you’ll need to get “active agreement” via a checkbox.
You need a Refund Policy and can’t just say “No Refunds”
This is one of the most frequent questions we get here at Legal123. The issue is particularly tricky if you sell digital products, like software or eBooks. In these cases, once the product is sold there is no way of “returning” it and guaranteeing that the product has not been or is not being “used”. In these instances, the online business owner would prefer to have a blanket “no refunds” policy and avoid the issue entirely.
However, Australian Consumer Law explicitly states you cannot have a blanket “no refunds” policy. You have to offer some kind of refund, since you are required by law to guarantee your goods and services against faults or if they do not perform as advertised. So we recommend you explain when you will and will not provide a refund, for example:
- You are given to opportunity to fix technical issues (e.g. downloading)
- Refund requests have to be made within a limited time period, or
- Refunds will not be given if the customer has changed their mind, etc.
You may need to include extra Terms if …
In the discussion above, we have assumed that you are an online business owner selling products or services to website visitors. However, there are other circumstances where additional Terms are necessary to clarify your business practices. For example:
- Selling website “space” to Advertisers (excluding Google AdSense)
- Allowing Contributors to post content on your website
- Running competitions (that may be specifically regulated)
- Signing up Affiliates to promote your website and products
- Offering an App with extra functionality
Remember, your Terms and Conditions are legally binding
Having Terms and Conditions on your website will not stop you from being sued – either in Australia or overseas. However, they will certainly help your case, provide evidence of your terms of business, provide protection and, in some situations, may help exempt you from or at least limit your liability. They may also deter a person from attempting to seek legal compensation from you or your business.
Always live up to and honour your business Terms and Conditions. If you play fair, then there’s a good chance that your customers will play fair too. But if you cut corners and do not respect your customers and your terms, then it’s only a matter of time before you will run into problems.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Persons under the age of 18 years are not considered adults and therefore are not able to agree to a legally binding contract. This means they can be released from the obligations agreed to, such as agreeing to purchase goods or paying for them. To avoid this, when selling products online, ensure that your customers are over the age of 18 years. But beware, they still may not be telling the truth and you cannot be certain. This is one of the risks of doing business on the Internet that cannot be avoided.
Using a Terms and Conditions template
We believe that 80% or more of online businesses can be protected with a standard Terms and Conditions template, particularly when additional clauses are added for specific business types like eCommerce, Personal Training, Dietary Supplements, Photography, etc. And that’s why we wrote the Legal123 template.
A template solution is also much less expensive than seeing a lawyer. We’ve seen quotes of between $3,500 and $6,000 for standard website Terms and Conditions from solicitors. These quotes are the result of most local solicitors not being familiar with online businesses and online law – so they need to “get up to speed”. Plus face-to-face meetings, office premises, secretarial staff, etc. are expensive overheads they need to recoup.
Finally, some best practice suggestions
Terms and Conditions are an important part of running a professional online business. Don’t forget:
- Make sure your Terms are easy to understand (iTunes is longer than Macbeth)
- Lay out your Terms with clear headers and put important clauses in bold
- Use a consistent set of Terms on your website, quotes and invoices
- Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and make your Terms fair and reasonable
- If you have an App, you’ll need Terms for that too
We hope you found this guide on How to Write Terms and Conditions for your website helpful.