Can I just copy someone else’s terms and conditions?

When you’re setting up a new online business or any type of website, one of the matters that you need to take into account is creating a set of terms and conditions for your users or customers. These are needed to protect you from claims made by users or customers, and also set out any legal or practical matters relating to your goods or services, such as sales terms, payment provisions and return policies.

So then, the question arises: can I just use someone else’s terms and conditions, and just copy them over to my website, or do I need to get a specific set of terms and conditions drafted for my own business?

The truth is, sometimes you can get lucky and find that another person or business really does have terms and conditions that could work for you (usually with at least a few small changes). But, if you’re not a lawyer yourself, or not versed in the legal aspects of terms and conditions, it would be very hard for you to really know if someone else’s terms and conditions would actually do the job for you.

Even if you copy your terms and conditions from a similar business or website, you don’t actually know who prepared theirs for them, whether they’re actually drafted well in the first place or whether they’re suitable for your purposes. It’s possible that the website you found them on just copied their terms and conditions from someone else too, and if you don’t have a lawyer look them over, you’ll never know whether you’re really covered legally, or not.

Copyright is also an issue. So, cutting and pasting someone else’s terms and condition is not such a good idea for a number of reasons.

If you’re short of cash, and you don’t want to spend a lot of money on this, at least get a lawyer to take a look at the terms that you’ve copied from someone else, so you know how useful they really are for your purposes.

But, the best option is get a lawyer to draw up a specific set of terms which are relevant to your business and which will make sure you have the legal protection you need. It only takes one claim from one customer to offset the cost of asking a lawyer to prepare a set of terms and conditions – and you’ll also sleep better at night when you know you’re protected.