When To Update Your Terms of Service
A terms of service is an agreement that specifies the user's obligations and the service provider's responsibilities to use a service. The terms of service allow service providers to terminate the service for users who fail to abide by the terms of the service agreement.
Terms of service are typically placed on a service provider’s website or application. Users will have the opportunity to review the terms of service and are often required to accept the terms and conditions to proceed with using the service.
Some websites and applications even require attestation that the user has read the terms and create technology that ensures users cannot get around reviewing.
Some clauses often included in terms of service are:
- A responsibilities clause
- A liability clause
- An opt-out clause
- An appropriate use clause
- User obligations and rights
- Payment terms agreement for memberships, subscriptions, and other costs
What Does Updating a Terms of Service Mean?
Updating terms of service allows websites to ensure the agreement they hold users to is up to date with new laws and regulations. Terms of service define how your product, service, or material may be utilized. The terms can be an important agreement to point to if a user brings a lawsuit against a service provider or vice-versa.
It may be the effect of a variation in a business concept that significantly affects the consumer’s data and use. Additionally, it provides a defense against contractual risk. Finally, it reduces and controls the risk of consumer disputes.
Here is an article on what updating terms of service mean.
Why Do Companies Update Their Terms of Service
Companies must refresh their terms and conditions regularly and in a timely manner to ensure that they reflect the most recent privacy and online laws. Terms of service can be seen as a business agreement with users to ensure the statutory floor of regulations for online users is met.
Terms of service are particularly important for online providers who attract international users. This is because various laws will require different standards to be met depending on whether users of the service fall under the jurisdiction of the law.
Given the internet’s capability of having users from all over the world, providers might be required to adopt a policy conforming to different international standards. For example, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) governing providers who service European Union users is designed to give users control over their personal information.
A Company that can comply with the standards of the GDPR will defend itself from contractual risk, mitigate consumer disputes, safeguard the Company’s intellectual property, reduce any reputational risk by conforming to the norms of providers, and ensure expectations between the company and users are established upfront.
Here is an article about why companies update terms of service.
How Often Should You Update Your Terms of Service?
Since the GDPR requires an update at least once a year and governs most websites, updating the Terms of service at least once a year is highly recommended. Typical updates to consider your Terms of service include:
- Reviewing the explanation of your business and property.
- Ensuring links to documents that detail your policies (including those relating to privacy, security, and returns) are up to date.
- Clearing up or defining essential words and phrases.
- Make sure any user obligations and rights in other policies match your terms.
- Complying with any new governing legislation.
- Ensuring the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 is met. Under this law, a statement regarding age limitations must be made (COPPA).
- Maintaining a list of rules that members of the community must abide by.
- Keeping refreshed an explanation of the prohibited conduct that will result in account suspension or deletion.
- Describing any inappropriate conduct, such as spamming, uploading sexual content, or links to it.
- Updating any applicable costs and the linked services.
- Refreshing any information relating to intellectual property, stating who owns what content.
- Reserving any rights to amend or change any agreement aspect, according to a vague "change" provision.
- Including a termination provision regarding exclusion.
Here is an article on how often to update your terms of service.
Do You Need to Notify Users When Updating Your Terms of Service?
One of the most important takeaways of his article is to ensure you notify your users when updating your Terms of service. A lack of notification has proven to be the root of lawsuits for many high-profile companies, such as Instagram and Sony.
Users who do not agree to the changes to the terms of service must be allowed to opt out or close their accounts after receiving notice. The legal agreements on your website or mobile app control the interactions between your business and users.
When notifying users of an update to your terms of service, be sure to:
- First, clearly state that the terms of service are changing.
- Then, briefly explain why the adjustments are occurring.
- Third, indicate the effects of the changes on the users and their accounts.
- Finally, tell the audience when the adjustments will take effect.
Here is an article about whether you need to notify users when updating your terms of service.
Do You Need to Display Your Terms of Service on Your Website?
The terms of service are ideally accessible from every page on the site via an access link. However, for applications that do not want to display the terms of service continuously, a provider might consider requiring an acceptance of the terms of service when signing up for a registration process (such as requiring online users to sign up for an account).
A provider might limit certain features of a site or application to only users who accept the terms of service.
The terms of service are an important document to protect your business. Terms of service typically include information to the user on the material under copyright on your site and dictate what is considered an unlawful use of copyrighted content. The terms of service protect the business’ ownership of:
- Content, such as blogs and pictures
- Webpage layout and designs
- Other originally produced contents
Here is an article about whether you need to display your terms of service on your website.
Seek Guidance in Terms of Service
The Terms of Service is a legal document that provides users and businesses with the confidence that the website abides by the protections created for online users. Internet lawyers often need to confirm that all the legal protections are established and in order.
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