Unlike other forms of broadcast media – radio, television and newspapers – anyone can set up a website if they have a connection and can publish away or set up a shop. Of course with a medium such as the web, when you go online you go online  to the world and potentially become subject to the laws of not just your home country but also the laws of every  territory where your website can be picked up.


It is always advisable before you set up a web site that intends to engage in any form of commercial transaction with customers that you set out the legal ground rules for how your web site is used and that you control the access of users to it, especially to avoid legal responsibility if your web site and content is misused or worse, your web site used as a conduit for passing online viruses.  Your online terms and conditions usually fall into four categories:

  1. Those that set out legal dos and don’t and disclaim legal liability for the use of the website by others. These will usually set out terms that amount to acceptable use of the web site.
  2. Those that set out a privacy policy, now required to be spelled out by law in the UK, Europe and many other countries. Given the use of “cookies” to both enhance the user experience on the web and to track and modify content according to the user’s behaviors, users are entitled to know what kind of tracking of their online behavior is being used by a web site.
  3. Like privacy, how data is used and stored and protected is usually incorporated into the terms and conditions.
  4. Terms of business – if the website has been set up to promote , advertise or transact business online , there will need to be conditions of business that cover the same things you would cover off if you were buying from a shop or contracting with a professional contractor in person. These kinds of terms will very much be personal to the type of business and commerce being transacted and will in turn depend on whether goods or services are being traded.

If you are not intending to trade through your web site and simply post information, the nature of your terms of use can be kept simple. The attached terms have more than enough for use on such a website. If you are going to promote commerce through your website, then they will be essential partly where some information is prescribed by law to be published and partly by good business practice to set out your terms on which you trade with the world. Many payment providers such as PayPal will not establish an account with a merchant web site unless you can evidence a satisfactory set of eCommerce terms and conditions before they will let you open a merchant account.