Launching an e-commerce website can be exciting, especially if you’re passionate about what you’re selling. Still, your site likely has some tedious legal requirements that you may find challenging. Fortunately, creating a Terms and Conditions page can be pretty straightforward as long as you know when to make one and what to include.
In this post, we’ll introduce you to the basics of a Terms and Conditions page. Then, we’ll discuss why you might need one before going over five key clauses you should include if you’re running an online store. Let’s get started!
What Is a Terms and Conditions Page?
In a nutshell, a Terms and Conditions page outlines the details of a formal agreement or relationship. In the digital world, this agreement is usually between an online customer and a provider of goods or services.
‘Terms and Conditions’ are sometimes referred to simply as ‘Terms’ or ‘Terms of Service’:
Essentially, this document establishes what a customer should expect from your business and the level of legal responsibility you will take on. It can also relinquish certain liabilities via disclaimers.
A few common elements of a Terms and Conditions agreement are:
- Privacy policies
- Conditions of use
- Dispute resolutions
- Liability disclaimers
However, when it comes to e-commerce sites, Terms pages often need to be a bit more specific. You may need to include sections that are unique to managing online sales, such as:
- Product information
- User accounts/registration
Ultimately, what you include in your Terms of Service is up to you. It can be as brief or detailed as you like (as long as it contains the basic requirements). Generally, the more thorough your Terms are, the safer your business will be.
It’s also important to note that you will usually find a Terms and Conditions page via a link in a site’s footer:
This is best practice. Therefore, customers will typically look for your Terms and Conditions in your site’s footer.
When and Why Do You Need a Terms and Conditions Page?
When and why you need a Terms and Conditions page depends on your unique business and geographic location. That’s because laws vary by region and industry. So, unfortunately, there’s no hard and fast rule on the matter.
In the U.S., a Terms page is only explicitly required in California. Still, many other state and local laws have complicated privacy implications. Therefore, it’s probably best to play it safe.
Generally speaking, it’s a good idea to include a Terms page on your site if you gather user data. If you run an e-commerce store, you will need to collect payment information at a minimum. Therefore, you’ll need a Terms page, regardless of location or product.
Even if you’re not processing payments yet, your site still might require a Terms and Conditions page. For instance, maybe you’re collecting user data via customer surveys as you prepare to launch your online store.
Ultimately, a Terms and Conditions page can protect your e-commerce site from legal repercussions down the line. This is crucial because even one legal incident could irreversibly damage your business, especially if it’s small.
Legal issues are often expensive and difficult to bounce back from. Plus, they can gravely damage your online reputation.
5 Key Clauses to Include in the Terms and Conditions for Your E-Commerce Website
Now that you know more about Terms and Conditions pages and why you need one for your online store, let’s discuss some key elements to include!
1. User Accounts and Registration
Even if you run a smaller e-commerce site, you’re probably encouraging customers to register for user accounts. For many reasons, this is an excellent way to grow your business and increase customer retention.
Upon registration, you can collect customer contact information and send users marketing materials via email. Alternatively, you might integrate user accounts with a loyalty program to encourage repeat purchases.
However, all of these online marketing tactics require some level of transparency. Depending on your local jurisdiction, you often need to disclose the ins and outs of your user accounts and registration in your Terms section:
This section may stipulate things like a minimum age requirement and disclaimers on password management.
What’s more, new laws like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) have made data privacy a widespread requirement in some countries. Therefore, you’ll definitely want to include this clause on your Terms page:
Since this clause is so important, we recommend consulting with a legal professional about the specifics of what you should include.
As we mentioned before, properly managing your customers’ payment information is key if you want to remain in business. As such, you should consider including a clause that discusses the finer details of transactions made in your store.
This section may outline your policies on transaction fees, order limits and cancellations, third-party data usage, and more:
If you use gift cards or promo codes in your store, discussing them in this clause might make sense. If your policies on those matters are more complex, you could link to FAQ pages to give your customers more in-depth details on those transactions.
4. Product Information, Shipping and Delivery
When you run a store that sells physical items, it’s a good idea to add a clause to your site that covers information about products, shipping, delivery, ordering, and similar details:
For example, you could discuss pricing, returns, shipping fees, and delivery options in this clause. It’s also common to warn users that products may look slightly different in person and that some variation is natural and inevitable.
You’ll want to be as thorough as possible here. That way, your customers know what to expect in every circumstance. Furthermore, this clause will likely improve the User Experience (UX).
5. A Liability Disclaimer
As we discussed, the overarching goal of any Terms and Conditions document is to reduce your business’s legal risk. A liability disclaimer clause takes this even further.
This section allows you to make your intent clear and release further liability on certain aspects of your store that are out of your control:
For example, if your users can interact with each other in product reviews or comments, you may relinquish any responsibility regarding users’ remarks. The disclaimer could also cover similar topics related to conduct, warranties, and even affiliate marketing.
Do you have any questions about adding your company’s Terms and Conditions to your site? Let us know in the comments section below!
Image credit: Sergei Tokmakov.
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