You may see on many websites selling items or services a section called the “FAQ” or the “Frequently Asked Questions” section.
I want to draw your attention to the difference between FAQs and actual agreements, policies, or legals on your website that people are bound by.
The bottom line or key thing to remember is that FAQs are not the same as having an actual agreement or terms and conditions that people will be bound by.
Frequently Asked Questions are a great tool to educate your client base and website visitors. Over a period of time, you will realise that the same questions keep getting asked by your clients and visitors and the FAQ section is where you will address all of those questions so people can access them easily.
However, you must remember that it is information only. It’s not something that binds someone legally.
You can’t say, “Well, my refund statement was in my FAQs so you’re bound by it.” That won’t stand up in court.
FAQs are not a binding agreement. You need to have policies that are sourced in consumer law, with proper terms and conditions on your website.
I see a lot of FAQs on e-commerce websites. Any site making sales should have an online sales policy, shopping terms and conditions, or an e-commerce policy available to the consumer prior to pressing the buy now button.
Customers are required to read and tick that they’ve read it that covers things like:
- what the product or services are
- the nature of those items
- the terms of pricing and making payment
- information about refund policy
- what happens if something’s damaged or not delivered
- information about shipping and postage
- disclaimers that you might have about the product itself or the service itself
- any intellectual property issues that you might want to cover
All of these things are part of your online sales terms and conditions and people are required to read that and be bound by it before they proceed to purchasing from you.
Referring customers to your FAQs is not sufficient. It’s not binding and it’s not something that it can be considered as terms and conditions of sale.
It’s very important to understand the place of FAQs as an educational tool for your business and your website, but they are not legal documents. FAQs are not something that you can rely on to enforce a sale, to refuse a refund, or to manage a cancellation of service.
FAQs are not Terms & Conditions.
What normally happens is my clients will say to me, “I want you to look at my website. I’ve covered how my website should be managed on my FAQ. I’ve covered my privacy statement in my FAQ or I’ve covered how people can buy from my website in my FAQ. Have I covered everything?”
My answer to that is – “No, you haven’t covered everything”.
It’s a list of answers to questions that people may have about your service. All of those things need to be covered separately on your website.
If you are selling something on your website, you must have it as a given that you will have a Terms of Sale or an Online Shopping Policy to cover the transactions that are occurring on your website or through your shop on your website, preferably through a tick box where people agree to the Terms before proceeding to payment.
So don’t get confused between Frequently Asked Questions and Terms and Conditions on your website. It’s really important that you don’t rely on FAQs to cover you or to assume that people are bound by them. Be sure to unpack that and understand your website needs.
I hope this has been useful to you! Download my Essential Business Legals Checklist for the documents that you do require as your business develops. That should give you an indication of where the documents I have mentioned sit on your website and your online presence.
Lawyer, Contract Specialist, Speaker & Advocate for Women in Business.
Drawing on more than 15 years’ experience as a lawyer and a woman in business, Shalini Nandan-Singh helps Australian service-based entrepreneurs protect their businesses and their bottom lines with empowered legal advice and contracts.
Encouraging listeners to #loveyourlegals, Shalini firmly believes that business legals should be an authentic extension of your business. Her goal is to educate audiences that, rather than confusing legalese, business legals should be an authentic extension of your business, creating positive business boundaries that support you in working with your clients with compassion and understanding.
Disclaimer: This blog is written to support business owners to consider legal requirements and issues that may arise in business. The information provided is for general and educational purposes only. It is not intended as legal advice for your individual circumstances. Please consult your lawyer for advice specific to you and your business.