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If you run an online business or sell products online, then your website terms and conditions are an essential document. They set out the contractual terms of your sales, and what your customers agree to when they engage with your online store. However, they can be challenging to draft if you are unsure about what you need to include. Therefore, it may be tempting to copy your terms and conditions from another website. This may be convenient and save time initially, but you will likely encounter issues as time goes on. This article will provide six reasons not to copy your website terms and conditions from another website.

1. You Open Yourself Up to Legal Liability

Copyright is an intellectual property right that applies to any original works, including legal documents. Any content from other websites will also come under this umbrella. Therefore, if you use another website’s terms and conditions without their permission, you could be infringing on their copyright. This opens you up to potential legal action which would be costly for your business. This is especially detrimental if you are just starting.

Websites will likely have express clauses in their terms and conditions outlining their intellectual property protections. If they find that you have used their work without permission, they can bring action against your business for breaching their intellectual property rights. 

2. They Are Not Relevant for Your Business

If you copy another website’s terms and conditions, you do not cover the unique circumstances for your business. Even if you copy the terms and conditions of a business that sells similar products, they may give their customers certain contractual rights that you do not want to.

For example, another business may offer free delivery because they pay for shipping costs, which they outline in their terms and conditions. If you copy their terms and conditions and do not note this fact, you may end up having to cover more costs than intended.

When you include these kinds of terms and do not intend to honour them, you are misleading your customers, which is illegal. If you copy another site’s terms and conditions, you could be binding yourself to conditions that you yourself do not accept.

3. You Will Not Meet Your Legal Obligations

With the internet, you can access businesses from across the world. If you decide to copy and paste another website’s terms and conditions, the authors may have designed it for a different country’s legal system. Therefore, if you use this same document, you will not have clauses covering your liability under New Zealand law.

For example, New Zealand privacy law requires that you let customers know how you handle their personal information, which some business’ do in the privacy provisions of their terms and conditions. However, other countries may not require this. So, if you copy terms and conditions not relevant to New Zealand privacy law, you risk a compliance notice from the Privacy Commission.

4. They May Be Too Confusing

A good terms and conditions document is:

  • transparent;
  • up to date;
  • legible;
  • accurate; and
  • in simple language.

That way, your customers are fully aware of what they agree to when they enter into a contract with you.

However, some websites’ terms and conditions do not meet this standard. Instead, they are full of confusing legal language that seems legitimate, but may not actually be. If you copy terms and conditions such as these, not only do you confuse your customers, but you may also breach the law for misleading them about the essential terms of your relationship.

5. They Are Not Comprehensive Enough

On the contrary, you may also run into the opposite problem, where the terms and conditions you copy do not cover everything you require. You may find then that you have to write in extra clauses, which can be difficult if you are uncertain about what you need to include to protect your business.

Another website’s terms and conditions do not explain your products or your business processes and policies. You need to define these yourself, and a copied document will not be adequate for this task. If something goes wrong and you do not allow for this contingency in your terms and conditions, you have fewer legal protections.

6. You Will Lose Customer Trust

If a customer turns to your terms and conditions and can clearly see that you copied them from another site, they will likely not want to engage with your business. It is unprofessional and shows that you do not take your legal obligations seriously when contracting with customers. 

Key Takeaways

Copying another website’s terms and conditions is not a good idea because they will not be relevant for your business’ unique circumstances. You also open yourself up to potential copyright infringement and other legal liability. Therefore, you should write your own terms and conditions and seek legal advice to ensure you are complying with your legal obligations. If you would like more information or help with your website’s terms and conditions, contact LegalVision’s eCommerce lawyers on 0800 005 570 or fill out the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need terms and conditions for my website?

When you sell goods and services through your online store, you need terms and conditions to set out the contractual relationship between you and your customers. This lets them know what they can expect, and you can limit your liability where appropriate.

Can I copy another website’s terms and conditions?

You should not copy another website’s terms and conditions for a variety of reasons. For one thing, you open yourself up to copyright infringement. For another, this document will not be relevant for your business, and you could miss critical legal points.

What is copyright?

Copyright is an automatic intellectual property right that creators have over their original works. Amongst other things, it applies to artwork, books, websites, and software programs.

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