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What is a Terms and Conditions Agreement?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 17, 2024
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Terms & conditions agreements are used with regularity in many different applications. For example, the rental of a DVD evokes such an agreement that one will not copy the DVD or use it for any other purpose than personal entertainment. If one purchases a warranty with a new car, one will frequently sign an agreement that specifies as to what repairs are covered or not covered under the warranty. Signing the terms & conditions agreement represents that one understands the scope and limitations of the warranty.

Most frequently one sees terms & conditions applied to the use of websites, for example, wiseGEEK. When one uses wiseGEEK, the rules of use are clearly delineated on the wiseGEEK web page. A user essentially agrees to the them prior to using the site.

These terms & conditions include a statement that wiseGEEK material exists under copyright law. WiseGEEK also disclaims liability from people using the site to govern their actions. So, for example, answers to medical questions or answers about financial matters are not meant to be taken as advice or substitute as advice from professionals. Further, wiseGEEK disclaims liability for the advertisements featured on wiseGEEK pages, called third party liability.

When surfing the Internet, it is an excellent idea to read terms & conditions of use prior to using different sites. Occasionally, an agreement will bury text about giving out one’s name or email to other sites, which can result in a lot of spam emails, or even telemarketing calls and snail mail spam.

As well, sometimes terms & conditions are important to keep a site running in a way that will not expose the owners of the site to liabilities. For example, some gaming sites use these agreements to help protect younger gamers from unwanted attention. People who use foul language on a gaming site, might, under the guidelines, be barred from further use.

Term & conditions agreements are not limited to Internet use. In fact, virtually every household appliance one buys will come with such agreements. Sometimes they are printed out on cashier’s receipts. Most often they are used to protect the seller from prosecution if the person uses the household appliance in way that is not intended.

It is unclear how binding these agreements actually are. Unless one actually checks a box or signs an agreement, it is hard to know to what extent they actually legally protect someone. In most cases, however the statement is enough to protect the owner of a website, or the seller of a product or warranty from costly prosecution.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGEEK contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

Discussion Comments

By profess — On Oct 16, 2012

Is there a general terms and conditions agreement that I can tailor to meet the needs of my company? I do not have the time or money to hire a lawyer to draft us a totally new document so I am hoping that that terms and conditions agreements are kind of like leases - If you are a small business you can use a standard form. Does this exist?

By Ivan83 — On Oct 16, 2012

@jonrss - I completely agree with you. It can be difficult to make it through those agreements, especially when they print them so small, but I always read them because I know that as a consumer I am at a disadvantage and this is the only way that I can level the playing field.

By jonrss — On Oct 15, 2012

As tedious as it may be, it is really important to read the terms and conditions agreement before you sign anything. There are often obscure but consequential conditions contained in the agreement that can have a huge impact on you if something goes wrong.

Never assume that a company, or anyone you are doing business with, is on the level or above being manipulative and sneaky. It doesn't matter how big or well known the company is, none of them will hesitate to take advantage of you at the drop of a hat. The only way to protect yourself is to stay as informed as you can.

Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen


With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGEEK contributor, Tricia...
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