Using Terms And Conditions Effectively

Terms and Conditions mistake

Make sure you don’t make this one, potentially huge mistake on your website. See how you can succeed with your Terms and Conditions and why they’re an essential part of your online presence that should never be overlooked.

Copy & Pasting Terms and Conditions

Your Terms and Conditions (T&Cs) must be exactly correct for your business. Terms and Conditions, which can also known be known as Terms of Use, have become an essential part of every website in recent times. As important as they are, we still see a lot of companies that don’t do them properly. The Privacy policy is an important related document (though is sometimes part of the Terms and Conditions), but this week’s Fail focuses on Terms and Conditions.

Terms and Conditions are often an overlooked part of a website during the development stage. Have you ever undertaken a big website project? There’s so much to check and the T&Cs on that little link in the footer of your website with all of those other important links that can easily be forgotten.

BBC's footer terms and conditions, privacy policy and cookies notice

If you’ve hired an agency to develop a new website for you, you shouldn’t need to worry about this. Your agency should consult you about your T&Cs. However, this week’s Fail has come about because we’ve recently noticed quite a few online businesses that have simply copy and pasted their T&Cs. Doing that can turn out to be a big mistake if it isn’t adapted to the needs of your business.

Terms and Conditions: A legal requirement

Terms and Conditions are now a legal requirement if you sell anything online. That’s an important reason simply copying and pasting without reading and ensuring they apply to you isn’t a good idea. How can you be sure you haven’t promised something you can’t deliver? Are you sure you’ve covered everything you need to protect your business from any legal issues?

We have seen companies we’ve worked with leave themselves open to potential issues. The SEO agency for one particular client copied and pasted a set of terms and conditions designed for a completely different company.

Marketing agency facepalm

From the SEO agency’s point of view, the policy was “ a trust signal in the minds of your customers” they said. But in their haste to demonstrate trust and compliance, SEO agencies like the one we encountered risk losing that trust by making this one, simple mistake; ‘ctrl+copy’ then ‘ctrl + paste’

The savvy customers you add T&Cs for, are the customers that will actually read them before making a purchase. The mistakes made by the SEO agency we encountered were caught in time, but the differences between the donor and recipient companies were night and day. Our client was making promises about services they could never deliver.

It is okay to get a generic set of terms and conditions as there isn’t much difference between them. You can Terms & Conditions online and there are even services that will create them for you by asking a set of questions. What is not okay, is neglecting to make sure you apply the T&Cs to your business.

Legal Information to Include in Terms and Conditions

Speaking of a UK registered businesses, it is a legal requirement to provide certain pieces of information to your visitors. For sole traders, the rules are a little more relaxed and you need to provide the address from which you conduct business as you won’t have a registered address with companies house.

For a registered business, you must display the following information in a place that can be easily found:

  • company name
  • registered number
  • the VAT number of business (if you have one)
  • place of registration
  • registered office address
  • main contact address (if different from registered address)
  • telephone number
  • email address
  • regulator and/or trade body registration

O.K stamp of approval

A Terms and Conditions page would be the perfect place to put this information as users are accustomed to seeing them on their travels throughout the web. If you are also selling goods and services, you would have a full set of Terms and Conditions including the above alongside your delivery and returns policy.

Not included in the terms and conditions are the privacy information statements which are usually included in separate documents like the Privacy Policy (including disclaimer) and cookie disclosure.

Most editable policies available on the internet will include a place holder for you to add the legally required information, but if you use one, you need to check it and make edits where needed.

Check Your Website’s Terms and Conditions

It’s important that you check your Terms and Conditions because some policies have sections that need to be edited to apply to your business and how it operates. Other sections should be removed as they do not apply to you. The worst case scenario is when the policy is copied from an industry completely unrelated to your own without being edited.

copy pasted privacy policy

The Terms and Conditions above were used on a childcare provider’s website, but they were actually designed for a website that sells products and sends them out to customers in the mail. Why all the talk of customs duties, returns and the Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000? Does all of that apply to a provider of childcare?

Furthermore, their agency forgot to add their contact address:

Agency forgot to add address to terms and conditions

After a quick search for the above Terms and Conditions, we found another website using the exact same T&Cs, but they’re actually a much better fit. Toner Wizard (now out of business, updated 20/1/23) actually sell a physical product and so these Terms and Conditions are an essential part of their business.

Toner Wizard terms and conditions

Although they appear to be using an appropriate set of T&Cs, they’ve not been perfectly applied as the text within the square brackets regarding the right to cancel a purchase should have been replaced but wasn’t. This isn’t really a problem though as the statutory minimum of 7 days is mentioned in an explanation of consumer rights. At the end, the contact details have been completed correctly.

Despite a small oversight, we can hail Toner Wizard for using the correct Terms and Conditions suitably modified to their website.

Nofollow Noindex Your Terms and Conditions

For SEO purposes, your Terms and Conditions page should be set so that it doesn’t appear in search engines. The examples in this week’s Hail & Fail were easy to find as the pages had been indexed by the search engines.

Documents such as Terms and Conditions are often set to ‘noindex’ and links pointing to them as ‘nofollow’. This is because there are so many T&Cs on the internet with exactly the same contents. Duplicate content is frowned upon by the search engines, so it’s best to avoid it.

follow that car

In the past, a duplicate content penalty could have hurt the rankings for your entire site. Recently, however, it has been widely accepted that a duplicate content penalty should only affect the page containing duplicate content.

In relation to your website’s ranking, a privacy policy is of no use as content to rank it highly on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPS). Unless you sell privacy policies and want to show them off to potential customers.

If you have a really big website, it’s good to no-follow all of the links to your Terms and Conditions because that allows search engines to visit more of the pages that have information you actually want to rank well for.

Your Marketing Actions

Make sure you ask for a set of Terms and Conditions to be added to your website. Then ask for your T&Cs to be sent to you before the website is complete. You can then read them, make any changes you need to and question the inclusion of any sections you’re unsure of.

We understand that you may not realise you need a set of Terms and Conditions and not include that in the brief to your marketing agency, but they’re essential if you’re running an online business. Plus, with coming of the GDPR next year, Terms and Conditions and privacy policies are now more important than ever; both internally and externally.

Great Reasons for Terms and Conditions

We think there are at least 7 reasons for you to have custom (or at the very least edited to suit your business) Terms and Conditions on your website.

  1. Fulfil legal requirements for your business
  2. They more accurately manage your liability
  3. They match the way you actually sell
  4. Preserve your valuable reputation
  5. They’re another way to get across your values
  6. Highlight special guarantees you can offer that competitors don’t
  7. Inspire confidence in your prospects

Those are our 7 most important reasons to have terms and conditions present and correct on your website. On an individual case-by-case basis, there will be more and differing reasons behind needing a strong set of T&Cs. The most important reason in any business or situation is if they’re a legal requirement for you to do business online. In this case, you really need to make sure they’re present and correct. Getting advice from a solicitor would also be a good idea. Especially if you have an eCommerce website.

If you don’t sell from your website or just need ideas to get you started, take a look at NI Business Info’s template for Terms and Conditions here and consider adapting it for your website.

Terms and Conditions Demand Attention to Detail

When working on a new website project, there are so many small things that need to be done that your Terms and Conditions can easily be overlooked. But why have the Terms and Conditions if they’re incorrect? If there is a page for them, that page is just as important as everything else on your website. If the Terms and Conditions are incorrect, that’s not a good representation of your brand.

attention to detail

Mistakes will always be made and things will always be missed. Developing a new website can be a huge task. Don’t put your Terms and Conditions on the back burner, treat them with as much importance and respect as your best landing page.

  • Take control from the start and ask for a set of Terms and Conditions
  • Make sure they are relevant to your business
  • Use no-index and no-follow
  • If in doubt, ask a solicitor
  • Never copy, paste and forget

Every business we currently work with, have worked with in the past and have encountered over the years is quick to jump up and say how unique their business is. They speak so passionately about how unique their processes are and how unique their products are. If you really are unique, make sure your T&Cs aren’t simply copied and pasted from another company.

Because they’re all much the same, using a standard set of T&Cs can be fine; just make sure that you adapt them to your unique business. You can do it yourself, but as with all legal matters, you may also want to contact a solicitor.

What do you think? Should it be noindex and nofollow on T&Cs, or Should they be noindex but have dofollow links pointing to them?