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Enforceability of Online Agreements in British Columbia

In British Columbia, the enforceability of online agreements, including Terms of Service (ToS), is governed by general contract law principles. Courts will examine whether there was a “meeting of the minds” and whether the terms were brought to the user’s attention in a reasonable manner. This article explores the key factors that influence the enforceability of online agreements and provides practical steps to ensure that your ToS are legally binding.

General Principles of Enforceability

  • Meeting of the Minds

For any contract to be enforceable, there must be a mutual understanding and agreement between the parties involved. This is often referred to as a “meeting of the minds.” In the context of online agreements, this means that users must be made aware of the terms and must agree to them.

  • Notice and Consent

Two critical elements for the enforceability of online agreements are notice and consent. Users must have adequate notice of the terms, and they must actively agree to them. Simply placing the ToS at the bottom of a website may not be sufficient.

Ensuring Enforceability

1. Notice

Users must be made aware of the ToS through clear and conspicuous links or notifications. This can be achieved by:

  • Placing a prominent link to the ToS on the homepage.
  • Using pop-up notifications that direct users to review the ToS.
  • Including a summary of key terms with a link to the full ToS.

2. Consent

Users should actively agree to the ToS, often through a “clickwrap” agreement where they must click an “I agree” button. In British Columbia, courts are more likely to enforce clickwrap agreements because they require an explicit action from the user to indicate consent. This is in contrast to “browsewrap” agreements, where terms are posted on a website but do not require any affirmative action from the user to indicate acceptance.

Key Elements of Clickwrap Agreements

  • Affirmative Button: Users must click an “I agree” button to indicate their acceptance.
  • Record Keeping: Maintain detailed records of the user’s acceptance, including timestamps, IP addresses, and any other relevant data.

Methods to Prove a Clickwrap Agreement

  • Screenshots: Take and store screenshots of the user interface showing how the terms and conditions were presented and the mechanism for acceptance (e.g., the “I agree” button).
  • Logs and Records: Keep server logs and records that show the user’s interaction with the clickwrap agreement, including the date and time of acceptance, the user’s IP address, and any other relevant metadata.
  • Database Entries: Store entries in your database that record the user’s acceptance of the terms, including any unique identifiers that can link the acceptance to the specific user.
  • Audit Trails: Implement audit trails that can track and verify the user’s acceptance process, ensuring that the records are tamper-proof and can be presented as evidence if needed.

3. Accessibility

The ToS should be easily accessible and readable. This can be achieved by:

  • Using plain language to ensure that the terms are understandable
  • Organizing the ToS in a clear and logical manner
  • Providing a table of contents or summary of key terms for easy navigation

In British Columbia, the enforceability of online agreements hinges on whether users have adequate notice of the terms and have actively agreed to them. By implementing clear and conspicuous notifications, requiring explicit consent through clickwrap agreements, and maintaining detailed records of user acceptance, businesses can enhance the enforceability of their ToS. Ensuring that the ToS are easily accessible and readable further strengthens their legal standing.

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Melissa has 8+ years of combined Commercial, Business and Contract Law experience as In-House Counsel in manufacturing, health, real estate development, and broadcast communication industries. She is instrumental in developing strategies to minimize legal risk and ensure regulatory compliance.

She has 6+ years of Human Resources Management experience and a Chartered Professional in Human Resources (CPHR) designation. Her practice includes Family Law, Civil Litigation, Wills & Estates and Real Estate & Conveyancing.

For fun, she visits ancient sites and ruins and belts out popular Broadway tunes.

northam law corporation

Northam Law is a boutique law firm offering advisory services in Real Estate Law and Conveyancing, Business Law, and Human Resources. Our practice areas also include Wills & Estates and Family Law. Notarization services are also available.

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