Whether you sell chocolates, medical supplies, sports equipment, or clothing online, you will need to have a clear set of error free terms and conditions outlined for your e-commerce store.
Often an afterthought when it comes to considering all the things you need when starting your online store, your terms and conditions are of vital importance to your business.
Not only do they set out the rules for purchasing from your online store, but it also protects your business from liability, as well as establish other rights, responsibilities, and limitations associated with any transaction that might take place.
There are several factors to consider when writing your terms and conditions, and in this article, we will guide you through the process of how best to do that.
Terms and Conditions Overview
Between the customer and your business, the terms, and conditions of purchasing from your online store form part of a legally binding agreement.
So before purchasing from your website, you should encourage all your customers to read them thoroughly and agree to them.
The best way to get them to do this is to add a separate ‘checkbox’ to your site which enables customers to accept or reject them. Most often this pops up at the checkout stage of the order process and provides a link to the page on your website that features it.
Terms and conditions should be tailored to your specific business and industry. For instance, an online store selling paint will have a different set of conditions from one that sells anti-virus software.
What to Put in the Terms and Conditions
Terms and conditions should be carefully considered and drafted to provide a clear point of understanding as to the rights, and obligations, of both your business and your customer.
It should make reference to:
- What customers should expect when buying from your online store
- How the process of delivery works
- What are your returns and exchange policies are
- What they can do if something happens, that deviates from what has been outlined above
Let’s have a look below at some of the elements that should be included within each category.
Not so long ago, upfront payment via credit card was the only choice a customer had when trying to make a purchase from an online store.
Nowadays, there are several other options customers can use, that are run by third parties like PayPal, Afterpay, and Stripe.
Be sure to mention all the payment methods you accept in your terms and conditions and where possible even link to these third party’s T&Cs pages.
Dispatch and Delivery
The dispatch and delivery processes are something you should clearly outline in your terms and conditions. That way customers should have a firm understanding of the timeframe involved.
Failure to do so could lead to your customers feeling frustrated and therefore requesting refunds or giving your business negative reviews.
Conversely, your business can build an outstanding reputation for fast and efficient delivery, if this is something you are able to offer.
When drafting this section, this is what you should cover:
- What regions and countries do you deliver to
- Which third-party delivery companies do you use (again link to their T&Cs)
- Your timeframe for delivery
- Who is responsible should there be damage during transit to the products
- When product ownership passes from you to the customers
For each business the dispatch and delivery processes are different. Some offer products they can dispatch within 24 hours, while others offer custom-made goods that will take longer to arrive.
Whichever way your business operates, make sure your terms and conditions clearly set your customer expectations, to ensure they have a positive experience.
Sometimes customers need to change their order after payment, so it is advisable to convey the steps they need to take to do this, as well as any time frames involved.
For instance, if a customer accidentally types the wrong address when placing the order, or needs to amend it, your terms and conditions, should state whether they have a window of time to do this, prior to the dispatching of your order.
A clear and well-written set of terms and conditions will also ensure your legal responsibility is limited to any issues relating to the delivery.
In this way, should a customer provide consent for the order to be left on your doorstep, if the parcel then goes missing, then you will not be held responsible?
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Refunds and Returns
Under Australian Consumer Law, there are several consumer rights and guarantees that you must reference in your terms and conditions – in particular, regarding damaged or defective products.
You are obliged to make it clear in your terms and conditions that the customer has rights that they can exercise under Australian Customer Law if the goods do not meet the consumer’s guarantees.
These rights include either a:
One of the main customers guarantees you need to be mindful of giving, is that products must be of good quality.
For instance, if you sold shirts and the stitching falls apart on the first occasion of your customer wearing it, you will need to either refund, replace or repair the shoes.
Similarly, your goods must also be suitable for the purpose. So, if you advertise a camera as being great for taking photos whilst diving, the customer would be entitled to a refund, repair, or replacement if it stopped working as soon as they went underwater.
A further guarantee you will need to give is that the product customer orders must match the sample provided on your website.
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For example, if you sell baseball caps online, and the image you have showcases them as red, but you send a customer a purple one, then you will either need to replace it or refund the customer – should they complain.
Under Australian Consumer Law, you will need also to include mandatory warranties and other certain guarantees to customers in your terms and conditions.
You may even give further warranties that are above and beyond those legally required.
For instance, you could offer a guarantee that the states your goods will remain of a certain quality for 30 years.
For companies that do offer warranties, you are required to include specific wording in your terms and conditions that inform your customers of their rights under Australian Consumer Law.
This phraseology is referred to as ‘mandatory wording’ and you risk penalties if you fail to include it within your terms and conditions.
Should you provide a separate warranty to protect your customer against defects, you will also need to detail:
- What time period your warranty lasts for
- What your warranty covers
- What the customer should do to claim the warranty
For example, you may request the customer should send the product back to you with full details of the defect, as well as their proof of purchase.
Should the Customer Change Their Mind
Under Australia Consumer Law the customer has no right to return a product to your business if they simply changed their mind about purchasing it.
Whether your business offers change-of-mind returns is up to you, but either way, you need to outline this in your terms and conditions.
Should you offer change-of-mind returns, be sure to clearly outline the process they will have to go through to receive a refund. This may be as follows:
- The customer must provide proof of purchase
- The product should not have been used
- The customer is required to pay the shipping costs to send the product back to you
For every online store, it is important that your terms and conditions are made very clear to avoid potential misunderstandings, issues, and complaints from customers.
These terms and conditions also must comply with certain obligations as per Australian Consumer Law and should refer to aspects like payment, delivery, warranties, refunds, and returns.When drafting them up, it’s always worth consulting with experts like LegalVision. That way, you will ensure your business is well and truly covered in legal terms should any issues arise.