DIY Terms: 6 Things to check before writing your own terms
Having Terms is a key part of your business and while I’d always recommend you get them professionally written, I know there are a lot of businesses, often start-ups, who copy and paste their Terms from other companies. It’s absolutely fine to write your own Terms, but here are 6 things to be aware of:
1 – Don’t copy someone else’s Terms word for word
The first thing to say is that copying someone else’s Terms word for word is infringing copyright law and opening yourself a can of worms. Potentially you are copying and pasting statements that are irrelevant to your business, that may not apply to the laws in this country, and in some cases could be at odds with the product or service you provide, or even contradict your payment procedures. By all means use another company’s Terms as a guide for writing your own Terms, but never copy and paste.
2 – Is anything missing?
Secondly, there are probably clauses you’ll want in your Terms that you might not find in another company’s Terms, even if on the surface they seem to be offering a similar product or service. Make sure you include clauses about who owns the product, service or content, as well as clauses to protect you from theft or misuse. You might want to include a clause on intellectual property, to spell out your ownership of things like logos, designs, online content or physical goods. Remember, the Terms you’ve found as a guide may not be legally compliant or cover everything completely.
3 – Are you insured to the same level?
Insurance is another key area with levels of cover varying widely. When writing this clause, double check with your insurance provider to make sure they back you up on what you include in your Terms. This also applies to business law, employment law, disclaimers and warranties you may want to include in your Terms. Double check what you can and cannot uphold.
4 – Payment Terms, are theirs the same as yours?
This is a crucial point to include in your Terms as it sets out in black and white what you expect from your clients. Do you want payment up front or do you offer credit accounts? How much credit do you offer, e.g. 30 days credit or up to a value such as £500? What happens if you need to recall a product or cancel a service? Do you charge interest on late payments or do you automatically pass debts to a third party for collection? What if you need to terminate a product, service or client account?
5 – Who’s responsible for transportation, breakages, damages and goods lost in transit
If you’re shipping a product to a client, you’ll need a clause to identify where your responsibility ends. You may wish to own the whole journey or defer shipping responsibilities to a third party, so your client is covered by their Terms. Either way, you need a clause in your Terms saying what will happen if something goes wrong. A product could get damaged in transit, it could arrive late or get lost never to be seen again. Having something rock solid in your Terms is essential for this.
6 – Lastly, how old are the Terms you’re using as your guide?
The law can change in the blink of an eye and if you’re using someone else’s Terms as a guide to write your own, just be careful the clauses you add are still current and applicable. You may find other people’s Terms have been copied and pasted or amended multiple times by multiple people. They may include (or not include) clauses from a country that doesn’t have the same level of legal requirements or include clauses that are now redundant. It’s also important to mention that you reserve the right to change your Terms from time to time and clearly state how you will notify users of changes.
So, in conclusion, it’s really important to have Terms that reflect your company’s core values and ethics, but it’s also important you understand what’s in your Terms and that they’re written in Plain English so they will be upheld in court.
Having a bespoke set of Terms written may not be as expensive as you think, and it doesn’t have to be complicated. I’ve written Terms for many companies in different industries and would be happy to write yours to make sure you’re covered for your business transactions.
Also, if you’ve copied and pasted someone else’s Terms and you want me to review and rewrite your Terms, please get in touch and I’d be happy to help with that as well.