Terms and conditions: set the bar high for your business and customers

December 13, 2018 - Tags: Customers

This guest blog post is provided by the Competition Bureau, an independent law enforcement agency that ensures Canadian businesses and consumers prosper in a competitive and innovative marketplace. Headed by the Commissioner of Competition, the Bureau is responsible for the administration and enforcement of the Competition Act, the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act (except as it relates to food), the Textile Labelling Act and the Precious Metals Marking Act.

When faced with the long text found in many terms and conditions online, customers often click "I agree" without reading the content. Those terms and conditions contain important details, of course. When they are clear, complete and accurate, they can benefit both consumers and businesses.

Keeping it real

Terms and conditions have in some cases been used to obscure the real meaning of a marketing message or to bury important details such as the true cost of a service. This may raise concerns under the Competition Act, which prohibits false or misleading representations. Padding a company's terms and conditions with extra details to bury important information is no protection from the consequences of making deceptive marketing claims.

What makes good terms and conditions?

Terms and conditions are there to give customers a range of detailed information about your company's service offering, e.g. customer rights and responsibilities and the use of private information. Terms and conditions are an important part of a transaction between customers and your business. They should:

  • Be clear to consumers and not be used to restrict, contradict or negate the main message
  • Be transparent and highlight the most important points
  • Ensure that important information is not buried in long, complicated text
  • Comply with the Competition Act and other relevant consumer protection and privacy laws

Getting it right

Although terms and conditions may at first appear tedious, they are the foundation of engagement with your customers and worth the time needed to get them right. The following are some tips to help you do that. You'll be delivering a win-win for your customers and your business, and contributing to a healthy competitive marketplace in the broadest sense.

1. No surprises:
    Support or clarify other marketing messages. Do not restrict, contradict or negate your main message.

2. Make them accessible:
    Ensure they are easy to find, read and understand.

3. Write for your customers:
    Provide clear, complete and accurate information. Avoid legal jargon.

4. Include all the relevant information:
    Include any information that could influence a customer's purchasing decision.

5. Maintain open lines of communication:
    Inform customers of any changes. Allow them to opt out. Provide contact information in case of inquiries.

6. Know your legal obligations:
    Know what constitutes false or misleading representations under the Competition Act. Seek legal advice if necessary.

For more details: Terms and conditions best practices for businesses

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