What are the terms and conditions of your website?
If your website is designed to invite visitors to buy the available services and products you provide online, you should have the terms and conditions appear on your website. Visitors will be interested to consider the terms and conditions first before deciding to use your services or to purchase your products. While these terms and conditions (“T&Cs”) need not feature prominently on the landing page, users should be directed to the T&Cs before they make their commitment to you.
It might not seem like a priority for new businesses
For startups and SMEs, it may seem like an unnecessary step amidst so many other important things to get done like figuring out the business model, getting your services and products ready, marketing and securing customers. However, having your T&Cs in place and accessible to your potential users will be beneficial. It also gives potential customers the added confidence to transact with you online.
It’s important to get your website’s terms and conditions right
It can be risky if you neglect to craft your T&Cs with care. Terms and conditions are aimed to protect your business thus it pays that you do give it due attention and care. It may be particularly important to a business that is at an infant stage of development and creating an online presence, to have a clear and comprehensive set of T&Cs.
Do you really need one?
Do you put content on your website? Do you collect any information from visitors or customers? If the answers to these questions are yes, you may include express prohibitions to unauthorised use of your content in the T&Cs as well as provisions that are in keeping with the privacy and data collection and usage laws.
One size fits none – why you shouldn’t copy and modify another website’s terms and conditions
This is generally never a good idea because every business is different. It is pointless to adopt another business’s T&C indiscriminately. A competitor that has a regional or global presence will have very different considerations than yours if yours serves only the local community. With no match of the commercial risks between your competitor and yourself, adopting your competitor’s T&Cs will expose you to risks. You also should not assume that the competitor’s T&Cs had been well considered and properly drafted.
So, what are the key components?
Things to include:
- Payment policy – Mention the payment methods that you accept. Specify what methods you do not accept, if any.
- Refund policy – Make your refund policy clear. You may want to state the situations when you will not make a refund. If there are expenses chargeable in the refund process, state what they are and how much.
- Copyright – Identify and protect your intellectual property.
- Trademarks and logos – Make sure that no one uses your trademarks and logos without seeking prior permission.
- Data and privacy – State clearly what data you collect and how the data will be used. If you are unsure what you can or cannot do, consult a lawyer to ensure that you do not inadvertently breach data protection laws, such as the Personal Data Protection Act 2012.
- Third party content –If your website uses any external third party content such as content submitted by your users, make this clear. Users need to know if they are giving you rights to the content and what you may do with the content given.
- Notification of changes – Reserve the right to modify the T&Cs from time to time.
These are just a few key things to include in your website’s T&Cs. You will have to consider thoroughly if there are other special requirements that your business needs. For example, an e-commerce business that ships physical items out to users ought to have a shipping policy. This will specify when your risks and responsibilities start and when they end.
Here are a few more practical considerations when drafting your T&Cs.
- List all the major things that can go wrong for your business and figure out what you need to add to manage your risk or to mitigate your loss.
- Make use of Disclaimers to limit your risk exposure
- Make the T&Cs understandable to the end user
- Consult a lawyer to draft from scratch, or to review the existing T&Cs
- Have your T&Cs where users will be able to find it easily in your website
- Specify the governing law of the T&Cs.
Review and update your T&Cs periodically
Lastly, you should keep your website’s T&Cs current by reviewing it and updating it whenever you have major changes to your product or business model which may happen fairly frequently in startups.
It is always a good idea to hire a lawyer to either help you draft these changes or to advise on the revisions that you already have in mind.
How much does it cost to draft a website’s terms and conditions?
A lawyer will need at least one meeting with you to understand and discuss your business requirements before starting the actual work of drafting the T&Cs. Most lawyers will charge based on time. If so, ask the lawyer what his/her hourly rate is. If you have a budget for legal costs in mind, do speak to the lawyer if he/she can deliver the work within this fixed amount of legal fee. The legal fee could start from $500 for a quick meeting to review of existing T&Cs to several thousands of dollars to have T&Cs drafted comprehensively to suit your business needs.
You can optimise your costs if you spend a bit of time getting prepared before you meet your lawyer. You might spend some time reviewing this article and thinking through each of the major points before you speak with him or her.
Have a question on drafting the T&Cs?
If you have any question about drafting terms and conditions for your website, you can get a Quick Consult with Adeline for a transparent, flat fee of S$49. You can expect a call back within 1-2 days on the phone to get legal advice and have your questions answered.
You can also get legal contracts and documents for your business done quickly and conveniently with Asia Law Network’s Quick Contracts. From a flat S$4,000, you will get 20 legal credits with a reputable law firm, which allows you to pick and choose the contracts your business needs. Lawyers will spend time with you to understand your business and its risks which are essential to help customise your legal documents.
This article does not constitute legal advice or a legal opinion on any matter discussed and, accordingly, it should not be relied upon. It should not be regarded as a comprehensive statement of the law and practice in this area. If you require any advice or information, please speak to practicing lawyer in your jurisdiction. No individual who is a member, partner, shareholder or consultant of, in or to any constituent part of Interstellar Group Pte. Ltd. accepts or assumes responsibility, or has any liability, to any person in respect of this article.