Website terms and conditions template – create yours today

Posted on November 18, 2020
Posted by Marion Kennedy

A website terms and conditions template (also called website terms of use) tells your customers how they are allowed to use your website and sets out your business’ rights and responsibilities when operating your website. Having comprehensive website terms and conditions helps to protect your website from unauthorised use, keep your confidential information and intellectual property safe, and provide clear instructions to users about your content and site. This reduces the risk of disputes about how your website content can be used and may help you to sue users for unauthorised use of your website.

 

What is a website terms and conditions template and why do you need it?

What is a website terms and conditions template?

A website terms and conditions template (also called website terms of use) sets out the terms and conditions that govern the way all visitors to your website or app actually use it. You can find a website terms and conditions template to use for your business here. If you use your website or app as a sales portal, you will also need to put terms and conditions of sale on your website for people to read before they actually make a purchase. These are different from your website terms and conditions. You can find further information about terms and conditions of sale at Terms and conditions template – a guide for SMEs

If you are using your website as more than a sales portal, for example if you publish and charge for access to online content in the way that Sparqa Legal does, then it may be best to amalgamate your terms of use and terms and conditions of sale. 

Website terms and conditions are different from your cookie policy and privacy policy which explain how you will gather and use information from people who access your website. You need all of these. For assistance with creating a cookie policy and privacy policy, see Cookie policy template: create and download your own and Privacy policy template – a definitive guide for SMEs

Why do I need website terms and conditions for my website?

Although there is no legal requirement for your website to have website terms in place, having them will help to protect your business from users copying your content or using the website in an undesirable way.

What should I say in my website terms and conditions?

You can find our website terms and conditions template here. It includes a copyright notice to protect the contents of your website and a general disclaimer to help protect you from liability, eg in the event that someone using your site gets a virus. It also includes clauses to protect you from users that submit content to your website in an undesirable way (for example, if they submit material that breaches another person’s intellectual property or should have been kept confidential, perhaps on a comments section or forum part of your site). 

Where should I put them?

Ensure the website terms and conditions are easily accessible; providing a link at the top or bottom of every page is a good way to do this. If you are using a professional website designer to build your website for you, they should be able to put the link in a suitable place for you. 

Changing your website terms and conditions template

Can I change my website terms and conditions?

Yes, you can change the terms and conditions for your website provided this is not unfair to customers. Whether your change will be unfair depends on what term you are changing and whether you have given reasonable notice and the opportunity for a user to stop using the service. 

Changing terms around the use of your website (eg changing the type of content users are allowed to post) is likely to be fair, as users can simply decide not to use your website if they do not agree with the change.

If you use our website terms and conditions template, you can change the terms at any time by posting an updated version on your website. This gives customers the option to stop using your website if they are not happy with the new terms. However, changes to your website terms and conditions should be limited to how you allow a customer or visitor to use the website, and should not be confused with making material changes to terms and conditions of sale (like pricing or delivery).

If you do want to change your terms and conditions of sale, you should get your customer’s consent. 

How can I notify customers about changes to my website terms and conditions?

If you use our template, this says that you can notify customers of changes by uploading a new version of your terms of use to your website. If you are making significant changes to how a person can use your website, it may be a good idea to email customers notifying them of the changes, or have a pop-up banner notifying them of the changes when they next visit your website. You should also change the date of publication on your terms of use when you make any changes.

What to put on your site in addition to your website terms and conditions template

What other information about my business must I put on my website?

In addition to having a cookie policy, privacy policy and website terms of use, you must include the following details on your website:

  1. the name and address of your business;
  2. contact details, including an email address;
  3. if your business is a limited company, your company’s registered number, the part of the UK where it is registered (eg England or Wales) and the address of your company’s registered office (if different from its usual address);
  4. your business’s VAT number, if registered; and
  5. if your business is part of a regulated profession (eg lawyers, accountants) or is supervised under an authorisation scheme  (eg a gambling authorisation scheme), details of that profession or scheme and a link to any rules or code of conduct applicable to you as a result.

Most businesses include this information in their website footer or on their contact details page. See Terms and conditions for sales online for the information you need to provide on your website if you make sales online. For a handy checklist to help you with other information you might want to put on your website, see Checklist of information to include to ensure your website is legally compliant.

You can find guides on creating a cookie policy and privacy policy at Cookie policy template: create and download your own and Privacy policy template – a definitive guide for SMEs

Do I have to put my VAT number on my website?

Yes. If your business is registered for VAT, you must provide its VAT registration number. For more information on VAT, see When to register for VAT and VAT invoicing.

Can I put pictures and writing that I have found on the internet on my website?

You must be careful not to infringe on other people’s intellectual property on your website. It is an infringement to make someone else’s copyrighted work available to the public, which can happen if you put creative work up on your website without permission.

You must not use work that does not belong to you, such as somebody else’s photos, drawings, writing or designs on your website. See Market research and intellectual property when setting up a business for how to use someone else’s work legitimately.

Can I post customer reviews on my website?

Yes, although there are consumer protection rules that stop you from presenting reviews in a misleading way. You must also ensure that your website clearly distinguishes between customer testimonials selected by you, and customer reviews. If you allow customers to post reviews on your website, you must ensure that you publish all genuine, lawful and relevant reviews  (regardless of whether the reviews are positive or negative).

You must not order the reviews so that positive reviews automatically appear at the top, or unreasonably delay publication of reviews.

Website terms and conditions for overseas customers

Can I limit or block EU customers from accessing my website?

No. This is known as geo-blocking. You must not do any of the following to an EU customer because of their nationality or location:

  1. you must not block or limit their access to your website (known as geo-blocking), unless there is a legal requirement for you to do so (in which case, you must provide a clear explanation about this which the customer sees when they are blocked);
  2. in some situations, you must offer your goods and services to EU customers on the same terms as to your UK customers (for example, if they are buying electronically supplied services or buying goods online that they are able to pick up or get delivered to a country you deliver to); and
  3. you must not refuse to accept payment from EU customers, or impose different terms on them, just because of their nationality or location.

Geo-blocking regulations do not apply to selling online copyrighted material like e-books and streamed movies, but do apply to physical copies like CDs and paper books. The rules apply only to customers who are consumers or businesses who will be the end users of products or services, so they do not affect situations in which you are supplying another business which will then sell on the goods or services. 

From 1 January 2021 (the end of the Brexit transition period) you do not need to follow geo-blocking rules when selling goods and services in the UK to UK customers. However, if you will be selling to EU countries you will still not be able to discriminate between customers in different EU countries when:

  1. they are able to pick up the goods or can provide a delivery address within a country in which you usually deliver;
  2. you sell certain electronically supplied services (such as cloud services, data warehousing services, website hosting, or the provision of firewalls , search engines, and internet directories); or
  3. you sell services that are received in a physical location (such as hotel accommodation, sports events or concert tickets).

Can I have different versions of my website to sell in different countries?

Yes, but users must choose to go to that site, rather than your UK one. If a user in a different country navigates to your UK website, you must not automatically redirect people from your UK website to another version of your website (for example, a version directed at French or German customers using different language or currency to the UK version) unless you have obtained their explicit consent.

If you have a customer’s consent to be redirected, you must still make your UK website easily available to the customer if they change their mind. Exceptionally, you may redirect a customer without their consent if there is a legal requirement for you to do so, but you must provide a clear explanation about the reasons for this which the customer will see when they are redirected.

Can I refuse to make online sales to overseas customers?

If you are a seller of goods, there is usually nothing to stop you refusing to ship your goods to other countries or, if you do choose to sell abroad, imposing different prices for customers in those countries to those offered to your UK customers. 

However, as set out above geo-blocking regulations apply in order to prevent discrimination against EU citizens. You can find more guidance at Website access and online sales to overseas customers.

Can I refuse to deliver online orders outside the UK?

Yes . If you are a seller of goods, there is nothing to stop you refusing to ship your goods to other countries, including EU countries.

How will Brexit affect online services provided in the EEA?

After Brexit, you will likely need to ensure your online services follow the rules of each EEA country you operate in. Until 1 January 2021, online service providers (such as online retailers, video sharing sites, and social media sites) are permitted to operate anywhere within the EEA provided they comply with the laws of the country they are established in (such as the UK). From 1 January 2021, online service providers will be required to comply with the rules in each country they operate in.

If you operate an online service in the EEA, the Government has advised that you should:

  1. check whether your online service will be required to follow the rules of each EEA country you operate in. The vast majority of online service providers such as online retailers, video sharing sites, and social media platforms will be caught. If you are not sure how this applies to you, you can access a specialist lawyer in a few simple steps using our Ask a Lawyer service;
  2. check where your service is based (your place of establishment);
  3. if you are UK-based, check for any legal requirements in the EEA countries you operate in (such as rules relating to online shopping or contracts and licensing requirements);
  4. ensure that you have ongoing compliance processes in place to check for future changes in EEA requirements; and
  5. consider getting legal or other professional advice about your continued operation.

You can find more guidance on preparing for Brexit in our Brexit preparedness checklist.

The content in this article is up to date at the date of publishing. The information provided is intended only for information purposes, and is not for the purpose of providing legal advice. Sparqa Legal’s Terms of Use apply.