Why Do I Have to Agree to Terms and Conditions?

Why Do I Have to Agree to Terms and Conditions?

While we may not bother to read them, Terms and Conditions are vitally important for providers and purchasers of goods and services. If a company and a customer have a disagreement, the Terms and Conditions will dictate who was in error or at fault. This is why both large and small businesses need Terms and Conditions legal templates to protect both themselves and their customers.

Are Terms and Conditions Actual Contracts?

Why are website Terms and Conditions binding? This goes back to the mid-1990s when software companies started including partial end-user agreements on packaging. The full Terms and Conditions would appear when you installed the software, and users agreed to the terms of use by clicking “I Agree.”

Shortly thereafter, websites started using the same techniques, and courts have upheld that so-called “electronic signatures” are just as valid as those made with pen and ink. 

At first, lower courts weren’t so keen on the idea, but by the time it reached the higher courts of the U.S., many legal scholars agreed that all of the key items of an enforceable contract were present in both paper contracts and digital ones, so long as the user had the ability to read the terms and then click “I Agree.”

What Forgoing Terms and Conditions Would Look Like

Let’s imagine a world where someone took a company to court and asked "Do I have to agree to the Terms and Conditions?And the courts said, “No, because they aren’t legally binding.”

In such a world, each and every person would have to negotiate a contract with every website or digital business that they interacted with. At the very least, they would have to fill in all of their personal information and print and mail a signed paper form in order for the contract to be legally binding.

In reality, once the world went digital, there was no going back. Clickable Terms and Conditions allowed entire online industries to thrive without having the burden of negotiating individual contracts with each user. 

Essentially, online Terms and Conditions have done with paper contracts the same thing online platforms have done with print media: they’ve demolished them. While some may think that it’s unfair to have to read twenty pages of Terms and Conditions, most would agree they would rather do that digitally than have to open and read a twenty-page paper contract. 

Final Thoughts

For digital businesses, Terms and Conditions have provided a legal shield as long as the Terms and Conditions set forth are not found to be unreasonable and the company upholds their end of the bargain. 

In the end, the invention of digital Terms and Conditions has vastly simplified contract law for both the business and the customer. What was once a burdensome task of bureaucratic paperwork is now as easy as clicking “I Agree.”

Kevin Gallagher
Kevin Gallagher

Kevin Gallagher is the CEO of The Contract Shop®, a contract template store for creative entrepreneurs, freelancers, coaches, and more. His background is in helping online businesses grow, having previously worked at Allbirds managing part of their operations. He is proud to report that his digital artist wife Mandy is a happy customer of The Contract Shop®, and his main motivation is to help as many people like her as possible with the tools that they need to confidently manage their businesses.

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