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You have likely seen lengthy terms and conditions pages filled with complex jargon and legal terms on other businesses’ online stores. These documents can vary in complexity, and suitable terms and conditions should be:

  • clear;
  • understandable;
  • in plain language
  • easy to read; and
  • comprehensive.

Terms and conditions limit your liability and protect your business against future legal action. Therefore, you want to make sure you optimise your terms and conditions to complete this task. If you write your own, you need to be certain you have covered all the necessary aspects in sufficient but understandable detail. For some guidance, this article will explain whether you can write your own terms and conditions when you own a New Zealand online store.

What Are Terms and Conditions?

Terms and conditions are a legal documents that set out the parameters of a contractual relationship. You can write different kinds for different situations, and you may have multiple depending on how your business operates. Their contents will vary depending on what you need to protect.

For your online store, you need sales terms and conditions to cover your sales with online customers. You also need web terms and conditions (or website terms of use) to cover visitors to your website.

These operate as a take it or leave it contract, where customers automatically agree to their conditions when they use your site or buy your products. Customers do not get to negotiate their terms. That is why these are often standard documents that contain a lot of information. You need to cover all of your bases, ranging from detailed product descriptions to what liability you accept responsibility for. You need relevant terms and conditions so that:

  • you can protect your business against liability;
  • customers know exactly what they agree to when purchasing from your business;
  • you have a contract to rely on if there are future problems; and
  • you can comply with any relevant legal obligations.

Alongside terms and conditions, your online store should also have a privacy policy. This document sets out how you handle customers’ personal information in accordance with privacy law.

Writing Your Own Terms and Conditions

If you do not have previous business experience, writing your own terms and conditions may be difficult. However, if you have knowledge in the area, you may be able to. Whether you should write your own depends on your personal knowledge and confidence to write a document that will sufficiently protect your business. Writing your own terms and conditions is better than copying another business’ word for word because:

  • you may run into intellectual property problems if you do so;
  • their terms and conditions may not suit your business needs;
  • they may operate under a different country’s laws;
  • you can lose customer trust doing so;
  • they may not be comprehensive enough; or
  • they may be too vague or confusing to be useful.

Seeking Legal Advice

If you do write your own terms and conditions, be sure to conduct the relevant research to know what you need to include. However, it is crucial that you receive legal advice at some point in the writing process. A lawyer can help you:

  • identify what your terms and conditions need to cover to protect your business;
  • write in a way that is clear and not misleading;
  • write clauses that will limit your liability; and
  • inform your customers of their responsibilities.

A lawyer can draft a terms and conditions document for you, or they can look over and add to what you have already written. If you want to use and add to a template, use one from a New Zealand law firm so that you know it is relevant to New Zealand law. When you do so, make sure your end product applies specifically to your business and its needs.

What Should My Terms and Conditions Include?

When you write your terms and conditions, use bullets and subheadings to break up your points. Do not use too much legal jargon, as you want to avoid confusing your readers. Try to cover all of the information you need, but portray it in a straightforward and readable way. If things change within your business, be sure to update your terms and conditions when necessary.

When customers complete a purchase from your site, get them to tick a checkbox saying “I Accept” when reading through your terms and conditions. This way, you can establish acceptance for your sales contract.

Your terms and conditions should cover your stance on the risks when customers engage with your business and what you will do if something should go wrong. Specific clauses you can use include:

  • product descriptions and coverage;
  • prices and payment terms;
  • cancellations;
  • warranties;
  • extra costs, such as delivery or supply costs;
  • delivery terms;
  • privacy and security;
  • specific laws that may apply;
  • intellectual property rights; 
  • how customers can complain; and
  • your contact details.

Key Takeaways

You can write your terms and conditions for your online store, but you should seek legal advice at some point before you start using them. An experienced lawyer can help you write a document that protects your business and clearly informs your customers of what they agree to when they make a purchase. If you would like more information or help with writing your online terms and conditions, contact LegalVision’s eCommerce lawyers on 0800 005 570 or fill out the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are terms and conditions?

Terms and conditions are a set of clauses that detail the contractual relationship between you and your customers.

Does my online store need terms and conditions?

Your online store needs terms and conditions to set out your requirements when selling to your customers, and the general terms of what customers accept when they purchase from you.

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