Does a website need terms and conditions?

Is it a legal requirement to have website terms and conditions under UK or international law? If so, what laws impose this requirement?

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Alasdair Taylor's Answer

In respect of English law and EU laws as applied in England and Wales, the answer is: no, yes and maybe!

No, because there is no general law requiring all websites to publish terms and conditions.

Yes, in the sense that there are specific legal rules that mean it is difficult for websites to comply with the law without some form of legal documentation.

Maybe, because in a few cases (for instance, personal websites used for private/domestic purposes) those specific legal rules do not apply.

The relevant laws depend upon the website/business in question.

For example:

  • businesses selling products, services or digital products to consumers via a website must comply with distance selling laws, which in the UK are currently set out in these regulations;
  • websites that constitute “information society services” (in the Euro-jargon) will need to comply with the disclosure and relevant procedural requirements of the Ecommerce Regulations;
  • companies incorporated in this country need to comply with the disclosure requirements of companies legislation; and
  • reading “terms and conditions” broadly, businesses processing personal data need to make the disclosures required by the Data Protection Act 1998 and related legislation (typically in a privacy policy).

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