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If your business has a website, you will need a terms of use document. This legally binding agreement sets out the rules for people using your website. These rules detail what visitors cannot do when using the website and a disclaimer that limits your liability. A terms of use document is a legally binding agreement. This article will outline:

  • what essential elements your terms of use document should include;
  • what other sections may be relevant for your document;
  • how visitors can find your terms of use document; and
  • how often you should update your terms of use. 

Essential Elements for Your Terms of Use Document

There are a few essential clauses you should include in your terms of use document. Businesses almost universally need these clauses, and they are relevant to all websites. The following table describes these sections. 

Acceptance of termsYou will need an acceptance of terms clause. This section will tell the users that they accept the terms of use simply by using your website and any services you provide. This clause also establishes that this document is a binding legal agreement. 
License to useYou will need to include a license to use section, stating that the visitor only has the right to use the website if they comply with the terms of use. 
Explanation of cookiesIf your website uses cookies, you will need to explain to your visitors how you use cookies to store information. You must also inform them how they can switch off cookies if they wish. 
Acceptable use policyAn acceptable use policy will describe what is and is not appropriate behaviour. These can include harassing other members, breaching copyright, or harvesting user data. This policy is critical if customers can upload content to your site. You can use this policy to regulate the type of content customers upload, allowing you greater control of your brand.
Rights and ownershipOutlining your rights and ownership will provide your users with information on your intellectual property rights. Further, this section can outline what penalties occur if a visitor breaches these rights. 

However, a terms of use document does not cover all aspects of the use of your website. You should also create a privacy policy to ensure your users know how you collect their information. 

Other Relevant Issues

The other topics your terms of use document needs to cover will depend on how people can interact with your website. In some cases, users can contribute or post on the website directly. Therefore, you should consider how you want to keep a check on what can be posted on your site. You should think about how you share information with third parties and what you may need to ask of the people who use your site.

For example, you may want to include:

  • how you will respond if someone posts unacceptable content on the site;
  • what information you share with third parties and how you do so;
  • what constitutes unacceptable content or behaviour;
  • how you manage ownership and licensing of user contributions;
  • how you moderate user content;
  • how you will ban abusive commentators; and
  • how and when you can amend the terms of use.

Furthermore, you should consider how much you need to limit liability for yourself. If something goes wrong on your site, you will likely be the person facing the blame.

For example, if your website goes down for a while, you could be liable for a customer’s losses if they relied on your website to conduct business.

Therefore, you should write a disclaimer detailing what situations are and are not your responsibility.

Accessing the Terms of Use Document

You should place an accessible link to your terms of use agreement on your website’s home page. Sometimes, this link is in a pop-up box when a visitor first opens your web page. Alternatively, you may only need a terms of use document if someone registers with your site. So, you could include it in the registration process. 

How Often Should I Review My Terms of Use?

You should ensure that your website terms of use are relevant and up-to-date. There may be law changes that mean that you need to update your terms of use. Generally, if you set a regular review period of every few months, you will likely ensure that your terms of use agreement is still relevant and protects your interests.

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Key Takeaways

A complete and up-to-date terms of use document is essential for your website and business. There are some vital clauses that you need in your terms of use document. However, there are additional elements that you can include depending on how your customers interact with your website. 

If you need help with writing a terms of use document, our experienced eCommerce lawyers can assist as part of our LegalVision membership. You will have unlimited access to lawyers to answer your questions and draft and review your documents for a low monthly fee. Call us today on 0800 005 570 or visit our membership page.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I hide my terms of use document on my website?

No, you need to ensure that your terms of use document is clearly accessible to those who use your website.

Is my terms of use document legally binding?

In most cases, your terms of use agreement is legally binding. You should therefore make sure it is as up-to-date and comprehensive as possible.

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