How to write a terms and conditions document



  • I'm closing in on the end of a long project (down to 30 tasks on my development to-do list, plus acceptance testing, data entry, deployment, and QA 😦 -- on the plus side, I did like 5 tasks today. So it's coming together). One of the scarier tasks I have to deal with is pretty much entirely non-technical. The dreaded terms of service page.

    My project is a subscription based site that has study aides for a series of exams in a competitive field. It has a few social features, like a blog. Users are allowed to comment on the blog, but I see that as a privilege (that can be suspended at my discretion without affecting the status of the subscription)

    So, I've done a bit of brain storming, and I've come up with a list of topics for which I will create policy:

    • relationship between me and customer
    • relationship between me and user
    • license for use of subscription content
    • payment and refunds
    • terms for a specific guarantee I am making regarding the product
    • access to social features
    • ownership of content posted to social features

    Can anybody think of more topics I need to address, comments on how to structure the document, or just helpful advice?



  • @Captain said:

    So, I've done a bit of brain storming, and I've come up with a list of topics for which I will create policy:

    relationship between me your company and customer
    relationship between me your company and user
    license for use of subscription content
    payment and refunds
    terms for a specific guarantee I am your company is making regarding the product
    access to social features
    ownership of content posted to social features

    You say: but there is no company it is just me...

    I say: set up an L.L.L.P in Nevada through a business services company.

    I used this company:

    Talk to Ellen she will take care of everything for you.

    Nevada is one of the only places you can get the coveted L.L.L.P. you will be the sole partner (unless there is another person).

    (you don't have to live in the state, the business services company is your proxy to the state and all communications will go through them to you).

    A little gem for you and others who might be going into business and need a little separation of business concerns.



  • Also, scout around for a boilerplate set of terms and conditions. I bet discourse.org or even TDWTF has one you can check against.



  • Yes, that's a good idea. Thanks for the link. Unfortunately, it's going to have to wait a while. I need cash flow before I can afford that kind of paper work. I will definitely get in touch with them, though.

    Setting up an LLLC is going to have to wait, but I am definitely going to give Ellen a call.



  • @Captain said:

    So, I've done a bit of brain storming, and I've come up with a list of topics for which I will create policy:

    relationship between me and customer
    relationship between me and user
    license for use of subscription content
    payment and refunds
    terms for a specific guarantee I am making regarding the product
    access to social features
    ownership of content posted to social features

    It may be implied in what you've already listed, but you need to create explicit policies spelling out the penalties for any failure to meet the other terms of the contract.



  • An LLC in Washington State costs $180 to set up. The paperwork isn't that hard. If you have any assets (house, car, savings, etc) the LL in LLC means a lot in the event things go sideways. You can always convert to a C-Corp or an LLLC later.


    Filed under: converted my company from an LLC to a C-Corp back in February


  • @Captain said:

    Setting up an LLLC is going to have to wait

    LLLP (I knew what you meant though). Yes...fun and profit... then you can do this later.



  • Yeah, especially since I don't see how I'm exposed to much liability anyway. The service makes one guarantee (free three month subscription if you fail the test the subscription is for). There's no scope for people to get injured (actually, this is a good thing to put in the terms of conditions: unauthorized to use the Website while driving, etc). I can control subscription liability by not taking subscribers and setting aside a month's worth of operating costs.

    But, then again, having the letters beside the name give the company "legitimacy".

    Still, I think my product is strong and my offer is compelling.



  • You're just not as creative as lawyers are for coming up with theories of liability.



  • AHHH freaking me out.



  • IANAL — You NEED to have one look over a TOS and you NEED to get behind a "corporate veil"! This is IMPORTANT, it will keep you from living under a bridge in the event that someone sues and it all goes sideways. A court could attach you and your wife's cars, savings (including Roth's, IRAs, and 401(k)s) and house, even leaving you owing more… a huge judgement you'll be paying off for the rest of your life.

    All this can be prevented (well, lessened at least) with less than $1,000.00 in paperwork and lawyer fees. If you can't afford that, I don't think you can afford to start a business…



  • The problem is that a single owner LLC isn't really protected from much liability. I have no intention of getting into debt, so liability protection against debt isn't helpful to me.

    The other problem is that it's easy to pierce the corporate veil in the case of a single owner LLC, at least if there's a lawsuit. If the company is found liable for a damage, and I am the sole decision maker in the company, then I will get sued personally anyway. Things would be different if I had employees (in which case, it would be unfair for me to take on personal liability for other people's decisions).

    Also, it's 2014 and I'm under-employed. Time is cheaper than money to me. I can make better use of my time than any of the people willing to hire me, by making a subscription-based education app.



  • Starting off as an LLC gives you an easier and cheaper way to "upgrade" to S-Corp, C-Corp, or LLLC later on.

    And again IANAL … but I do work in corporate accounting, and as far as I understand depending on precedent, and jurisdiction — even in the event the corporate veil is breached by the court, it still provides protections that will limit the reach to assets you personally control — leaving your spouse and their assets unmolestable.

    The best thing you can do, for you and your family, is to get a real assessment by a legal professional; even if you don't do the LLC. An ounce of prevention… and all that.

    Good luck and make a 💩-ton of money!



  • Thanks, I really do appreciate you taking the time to give me some advice. 🙂



  • De nada 😄


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