Does Your Website Really Need Terms of use?

Incorporating terms of use on your website can provide key protections for your organization. Discover the benefits of terms of use with this guide.

There is some confusion over whether websites must post terms of use. While websites are legally required to post a privacy policy, they are not legally required to post a terms of use page. However, it is strongly recommended that websites in all sectors post terms and conditions.

A well-written terms of use policy should have several main elements. It should cover potential legal disputes, how the website protects users' privacy, and explain how it follows applicable laws. The terms should be comprehensive enough to ensure that both the website and the users are covered in all plausible situations.

Websites can see several benefits from having a terms of use page. They can reduce potential legal expenses, increase user confidence, and ensure users follow their rules. A well-written terms of use page can be the difference between a website succeeding and going out of business.

Elements of terms of use

There are three important sections that any terms of use page needs to have. These include a liability section, a privacy policy, and a section about the governing laws and regulations. Also, many websites have a passage within the liability section requiring users to go to binding arbitration rather than court if they have a legal dispute with the website.


A well-written terms of use policy has to cover liability. This part of the terms should lay out what the website is liable for and what it is not liable for. Of course, you want to reduce the website's exposure to liability as much as possible. However, there are certain situations in which the website may be exposed to liability concerns. Having a lawyer help you draft your entire terms of service document is a good idea. However, at a minimum, you should have a lawyer write the liability section of your terms of use.

A layman is not likely to know precisely what types of liability the website can afford and what liability exposure is inevitable. This part of the policy also has to make it clear that the user accepts these terms of liability when they accept the terms of use document as a whole. This document will be legally binding, meaning it will reduce the website's exposure to liability as long as it is written per all applicable laws. This is perhaps the most crucial element of the entire document, as it can save your site thousands in potential legal costs and settlements. Insurance companies that offer liability insurance will also require your website to include this section in the terms of use. You may also want to include a provision that requires users to go to arbitration rather than court if they have a legal dispute with the site.

Privacy policy

This is the only section of the terms of use that every website is required to have. It is essential to explain how you will safeguard your users' data. If you are going to be sharing your users' data with other companies, you need to make this clear in the privacy policy. This is because you will need your users' informed consent to do so. You do not necessarily need to get a lawyer to help you with this part, as the laws regarding website privacy policies are relatively straightforward. There are even many templates available online that you can use to craft a valid and law-abiding privacy policy. However, if you have already engaged an attorney, it is not a bad idea to have them look over your privacy policy.

Governing laws and regulations

You must let your users know what laws and regulations your website will operate under. You must research all the laws and regulations that your website will have to follow. This section lets users know that you are running a legitimate operation and following the law to the letter. This is yet another section that should be either written by an attorney or reviewed by an attorney. This is especially true if your website operates in a heavily regulated area, such as insurance or finance. The laws governing companies in these sectors are very complex and should be explained by a lawyer.

Reasons to have terms of use on your website

There are many reasons a website should have a terms of use page. For example, a terms of use page would show the website is a legitimate operation and increase user confidence. However, the most important reasons a business should have a terms and conditions page are to limit the business's liability, prevent users from abusing the service, protect the site's intellectual property, and ensure that the users comply with the site's terms.

Limit your liability

As previously mentioned, limiting liability is one of the most important reasons to have a website terms and conditions page. A lawsuit could result in tens of thousands of dollars of legal bills, even if you win. If you lose (perhaps due to not having limited liability exposure in your terms of use), you might have to pay a large settlement. You can get liability insurance, but the premiums will go up drastically after a single lawsuit. An effective terms of use document is the best way to limit your company's liability.

Prevent abuse

You can prevent users from abusing other users with your terms of use. Your terms can allow you to ban users if they use slurs or hateful terms toward other users. All users must agree to these terms so you have a justification for banning them.

Protect intellectual property rights

Most website companies have little physical property, especially when they are just starting. Your site's most valuable assets are most likely its intellectual properties. You can protect your intellectual property in your terms of use. For example, you can ban users from distributing your copyrighted content without your site's express written permission.

Ensure compliance

Your terms can lay out the potential consequences for users who break the rules. For example, you could state that users who misuse your services can be banned immediately. You may even want to include a provision allowing you to sue users in certain extreme services (such as stealing your intellectual property and reselling it). It is crucial that the potential consequences of misusing your site be clearly explained, as this will deter most potential problem users.

Using terms of use to your advantage

Businesses in various sectors, especially online businesses, can use a well-written terms and conditions statement to their advantage. For example, a company offering an email marketing course could put a clause in their terms stating that users consent to receive a regular newsletter. This newsletter could contain email marketing design ideas and business email name ideas. Of course, this newsletter would be an email marketing campaign intended to get users to sign up for new courses. If you include a clause in your terms that authorizes you to send such emails, you could create an ongoing source of income.

It's essential to write your website terms of use in clear language. This will help your users fully understand your website terms and conditions. As many website terms of use are written in confusing legalese, users will appreciate it if your website terms and conditions are easy to comprehend. Not only will your users value the clarity of your website's terms, but the increased comprehension of your website's terms will lead to fewer violations.

Even if you have gone to great lengths to create clear website terms, some users will still have questions. You should provide a contact us email at the end of your terms so that your team can answer any questions your users may have.

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