Terms of Use

Helpful tips for creating Terms of Use for your Website

Shane Murphy avatar
Written by Shane Murphy
Updated over a week ago

The Terms of Use document is a contract between the company and users of its website. It covers many of the important issues that can arise when conducting business online. It should be available on the website along with a Privacy Policy, which can also be created on Ownr.

Accounts and Data Storage

When a user creates an account on your website, it can dramatically increase their interactions with your company and your website. This raises several issues that should be covered in the Terms of Use.

First, you should consider whether creating an account on the website requires the user to upload information. This can be personal information, such as their name, email address, age, or mailing address. Next, you should consider whether the user is permitted (or encouraged) to upload other data, such as photos, videos, written content, or electronic files.

Content Rights

Having confirmed that your website allows users to upload files and data, you should consider who owns that content and who has rights over it. In most cases, it is beneficial for the company that controls the website to also have some control over user content. For example, a photo-sharing website will likely retain the right to share users' photos for promotional purposes. However, a site that collects highly sensitive information (like health data) will likely be prohibited from sharing the content of users' accounts for any reason whatsoever.


If your website collects money from users in any manner, the Terms of Use must include specific provisions about how payments are managed. Users are entitled to know how your company processes payment information over the internet and how credit card information will be stored.

It is now almost universally accepted that websites will use a third-party payment processor for all payments. These third-party processors specialize in securely handling payments. It is now very uncommon, and unsafe, for companies to process and store credit card information themselves.

If your website processes payments on an ongoing basis, like a subscription plan, it is especially important to inform users of your payment and billing practices. To protect the company from users with invalid or cancelled credit cards, the Terms of Use will include provisions confirming that the user will always maintain a valid credit card which can be charged ongoing payments.

If you have a mobile application, you may accept in-app payments. For example, this is common through the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store. 


Refunds can be a source of contention between retailers and their customers. But refund policies are not exclusively for companies that sell goods through an e-store. Any company accepting payments online should consider whether a refund policy is required, and that policy should be prominently posted on the website. Any customer with a concern can then be directed to the refund policy before requesting a refund from the company.
The refund policy itself is not included within the Terms of Use. So this is an extra item that needs to be posted on the website, usually on the pricing or payment page, where all users will see it.

Age Restrictions

Websites targeted toward children raise a number of legal issues. For that reason, many websites explicitly prohibit anyone under 18 from using their services, or prohibiting them from accessing the website unless directly under the supervision of an adult. If your website contains any content that might be unsuitable for children, then the Terms of Use should include a complete prohibition on access by children.

If your website might be accessed by anyone under 18 years of age, then the Terms of Use will include a provision allowing them to access the Website without submitting any personal information. Users under 13 years of age will still be prohibited from accessing the website unless they are directly under the supervision of an adult. 


Traditionally, when a legal dispute arises between two parties and they cannot resolve it among themselves, a lawsuit will be started in the courts. While the courts are free to use (apart from lawyer fees), they are not always the best way to resolve disputes. The courts can be slow, complex, and the entire dispute will be available to the public.

Sometimes companies prefer to resolve disputes through arbitration rather than going to court. Arbitration is just like a court, but the parties will hire an independent arbitrator to resolve the dispute. The process is more flexible and can be tailored to the needs of the parties. Because the parties control the process, arbitration can be cheaper and quicker than going to court. Also, arbitration takes place in private, instead of a public courtroom. So the details of the dispute will not be known to the public. This can prevent a dispute from leading to negative PR.

Class Actions

A class action lawsuit involves a group of people coming together to sue a company for the same reason. This saves the cost and time of each person hiring their own lawyers and starting individual lawsuits. However, for companies, class actions can be a nightmare, as the group of plaintiffs can be large, and in some cases can include all of a company's customers.

There are times when class actions are always permitted under the law, as they are seen as an efficient way to resolve disputes.  But for some types of lawsuits, a company can ask its customers to "waive" their right to participate in a class action. If the customer has agreed to a waiver, they will have to start their own lawsuit against the company (or take part in a private arbitration). For this reason, it's very common for companies to include a class action waiver in their Terms of Use, even if they may not prevent customers from starting a class action in every instance.

Additional Terms

While most Terms of Use are fairly similar and contain the same types of provisions, there are instances where Terms of Use should contain terms that are specifically related to your company or your website. This is particularly true in the technology industry, where things can change rapidly and standard terms might not cover the way you're using your website.

The Additional Terms section should be used to insert customized terms into the Terms of Use that relate to your business. 

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