Website terms and conditions (T&Cs) are important, but truthfully, how many of us actually take the time to read them and go through the detail with a fine toothcomb?
There is no general law requiring all websites to publish terms and conditions of business. However, there are specific legislative frameworks which mean that it is incumbent for businesses to display certain information on their websites.
As explained in more detail below, these include:
– distance selling laws
– e-commerce regulation
– disclosure requirements for UK companies in line with the Companies Act
so it makes sense to have them. T&C’s can be a legal minefield and whilst there are free sample terms of business all over the internet, every business is different. Taking the risk of a “one size fits all” approach could cost you dearly later on, so if in doubt, get legal advice.
The good news is that since October of 2015, consumers have a legal right to expect fair and transparent T&Cs as a result of the Consumer Rights Act 2015 (CRA 2015). Historically consumers have complained that T&Cs are unnecessary long and complex and, whilst there has been some protection if unfair terms exist, the end result is that if they haven’t been read many are left with products and services which often don’t suit their needs.
So business owners now have an increased obligation to create visible T&Cs – and in today’s day and age websites are the first port of call – critical information such as price and core details of sale/service needs to be clear, prominent and easy to understand.
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1. The basics
The foundation of your consumer interaction and define how your business will manage its customers.
All T&Cs should address:
Headline areas which need to be prominent and transparent are price and subject matter terms. The idea is to enable consumers to make informed decisions when comparing the terms of business offered by different suppliers.
3. Privacy statement
It is good practice to ask the consumer to agree to a business privacy statement and policy.
4. “Fair” notices
Terms must be fair, plain and intelligible and not be significantly unbalanced against customers.
5. Consumer contracts and distance selling
Businesses selling products or services to consumers through websites must comply with certain consumer contract and distance selling regulations.
6. E-commerce regulations
The Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002 implement an EU Directive which was introduced to clarify and harmonise the rules of online business throughout Europe and boost consumer confidence.
Consumers who place orders online must be provided with “appropriate, effective and accessible technical means” to enable them to identify and correct any errors before completing their orders.
8. Companies Act disclosure requirements
If your business is a company, then the Companies Act 2006 require you to state the place of registration on your website
9. Data protection
Make sure that you deal with data protection obligations.
10. Alternative dispute resolution
It is now obligatory to give your consumers details of certified ADR providers. Since June of last year, approved third-party mediators have been available to resolve disputes between consumers and businesses in the event of a contractual dispute.
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