The short answer: Despite how simple they appear, terms and conditions are meant to meet incredibly complex and highly specific scenarios. Because each terms and conditions document is a legally binding contract that is meant to protect you, the business owner, it’s imperative that the document matches your specific business processes, model, and remains up-to-date with the various laws referenced in its contents. Templates simply cannot do this, therefore, we strongly suggest that you avoid using templates.
The Long answer
The contents of a terms and conditions document typically spans multiple laws (everything from consumer law to copyright law). They should allow you to set your rules for user behavior, including appropriate disclaimers for any misuse of your product or service. This is trickier than it seems as even businesses with the same model may have different processes, needs, and user behavior. Let’s look at some examples to better illustrate this.
First, let’s look at how business model influences the content of your terms and conditions by exploring a few questions.
These are some of the questions you should ask yourself when evaluating your business model:
- Is your business mostly concerned with monetizing content?
- If you run an e-commerce site, do you sell digital products, physical products, or both?
- Do you sell primarily to other businesses, or only to consumers (b2b vs. b2c)?
- Can your users sell to other users?
Not only do each one of these business models have different needs, but specific or various laws may apply depending on which model you use. For example, under many countries’ laws, consumers have certain mandatory rights that you’re legally required to disclose. As you can imagine, where multiple laws and regulations are concerned, it’s best to leave the drafting to legal experts.
Business processes can vary widely even within the same general business model.
For example, two eCommerce stores, selling the exact same products can have different:
- sign-up processes; account types (e.g. guest vs logged in);
- user roles (can users sell to other users, up-vote ratings, leave comments, report other users);
- payment options (paypal, credit card, bitcoin, in-store virtual credit, gift cards);
- return and shipping policies; and more.
Needless to say, your actual business processes determine heavily determine how users interact with your service, and by effect, the rights you grant, rules you implement and the disclaimers that you make.
Lastly, considering that terms and conditions are meant to protect you, the business owner, it’s critically important that you set rules specific to your actual needs. Let’s take a look at some popular situations in which terms and conditions are used to set legally binding rules.
Businesses often choose to set explicit rules where:
- different user levels exist (eg. registered vs non-registered);
- the business facilitates or otherwise process payments and/or other sensitive user data;
- the business wants to communicate expectations for user behavior (including comments) and state grounds for termination of accounts;
- users are allowed to upload their own content;
- the business participates in affiliate programs;
- the business would like to have some legally enforceable control over, and set rules about, how their product, service or content may be used;
- the business provides content or products which can potentially cause harm if misused;
- the business would like to formally set the governing law; and more.
As you can imagine, business needs are entirely individual and evolve with time.
Considering the above, a more accurate way to rephrase the original question would be: Should I just use a template for the only legally binding agreement between myself and my users that allows me to set rules specific to my business processes and to protect my business from liabilities? We strongly suggest that you do not.
A terms and conditions document is more than just a formality, it is a valuable tool that protects you as a business owner.
How iubenda can help
Our Terms & Conditions generator lets you to easily generate and manage Terms and Conditions that are professional, customizable from over 100 clauses, drafted by an international legal team, available in 8 languages, and up to date with the main international legislations. It is powerful, precise, and capable of handling even the most complex, individual scenarios and customization needs.
It comes with:
- guided set-up;
- hundreds of possible personalizations;
- legislation monitoring;
- plug-and-go integrations for popular store platforms such as Shopify and WooCommerce;
- pre-defined scenarios: buildable text modules for marketplace, affiliate programs, copyright, e-commerce, mobile, and more.
The solution is optimized for everything from e-commerce, blogs, and apps, to complex scenarios like marketplace and, SaaS.
Getting started is easy. Simply create a free account, activate the Terms and Conditions (requires 1 Ultra license) within the dashboard and start generating.
For a list of the full features of the Terms and Conditions Generator, click here or read the guide here.
Generate a Terms and Conditions document
Optimised for E-commerce, Marketplace, SaaS, Apps and more