Providing Legal Information on Your E-Commerce Store

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No matter how large your business is or what you’re trying to sell, as an ecommerce merchant you must include accessible, legal information on your website.

Legal information should not be overlooked: it’s an integral part of any website that should be prepared before your site launches. Contact and legal information not only legitimises your website for customers, but it also defines certain protocols that can be followed, should a situation arise.

Contact details

It’s strongly recommended that your e-commerce store includes contact details (email address, address and phone number) somewhere on your site. Your contact email address should include the domain of your business/website. This is to ensure consistency across your website, and reassure potential customers. Be cautious of providing a mobile number as a means of contact on your site, as this can be seen as lazy or lacking professionalism. Another alternative is to provide a 1800 number, as these are fairly inexpensive and straightforward to set up. In the same realm, a business address (PO Box address) may be attractive to potential customers, particularly if your website is selling a product that may require a return. Somewhere on your website, visitors should be able to source your name (the business owner) as well as your Australian Business Number (ABN) or Australian Company Number (ACN) - of course these should be appropriately tailored to the country of origin of your business.

Legal content and information on your website

All Shopify accounts are equipped with the following page templates to include on your e-store. These are 3 of the most commonly used and recognised terms that visitors will both recognise and seek out if they require more legal information.

1. Privacy Policy

Your privacy policy is a legal statement that describes the way your business deals with customer, client or employee information (for example names, email addresses, addresses or any other personal information). To avoid miscommunication, the link to your Privacy Policy- which is required by law - should sit separate from any other legal information on your website. This document should disclose how your business gathers, manages and who has access to personal information of this kind. If your business shares customer information, you need to provide an opt-out option for those customers who do not want their information to be shared with third parties. Your privacy policy should communicate the way in which your business manages all personal data, and inform users of how they are able to adjust and edit their own information. Click here to view Australia’s Privacy Act and National Privacy Principles.

Some useful tips for preparing your Privacy Policy:

  1. Your ‘Privacy Policy’ link should be easy to locate. Generally you will see it at the bottom of a website in the footer
  2. Keep this legal document separate from any other legal information on your website and ensure all information aligns with your local data privacy conditions
  3. Ensure this document is an honest reflection of the way you use personal information that is received through your site
  4. Update your privacy policy as soon as any changes occur
  5. There are many useful, online services providing templates for Privacy Policies, however consulting a professional lawyer is always the most trusted and secure way to seek guidance on any legal information that you are putting on your website.

    2. Terms and Conditions

    Also known as Terms of Service, Terms of Use or User Agreement. Unlike your privacy policy, the law does actually not require terms and conditions, but they are strongly recommended. These define the terms, conditions and clauses of the use of your website for any visitors. They’re the backbone of your e-commerce store, and without them your website runs the risk of seeming insincere or amateur. A clear and accessible set of T&Cs will help to instil a sense of trust in your customers. Furthermore, T&Cs can help to protect your business. When faced with a problem on your website, they act as rules and regulations, and should provide a protocol to help to resolve issues such as:

    • Copyright infringement
    • Any spamming problems.
    • Consequences for any users who abuse your site, undergo forbidden activity on your website, as well as any disclaimers. Most commonly, consequences will include the termination or deactivation of an account.

    Whilst it is a complex document, it’s important to try and condense your T&Cs as much as possible: it’s a waste of time putting together 50-page document containing dense legal jargon that your customers are unlikely to read. Browsing other websites will help you to decide which terms are crucial, and how to personalise them for your business. Keep in mind: copying another website’s T&Cs is a breach of the Intellectual Property Copyright protection of that website. Similar to your Privacy Policy, you should seek professional legal advice when preparing your Terms & Conditions.

Some clauses that are commonly found in T&Cs include:

    • Disclaimer of liability
    • Trademarks
    • Payment terms
    • Delivery terms
    • Product information and warranty
    • Website terms of use

    Research each of these terms and what they entail to ensure that all relevant information can be found in your T&Cs.

    3. Refund Policy

    If you are selling via your website, it’s important that your returns and shipping conditions are easily accessible to any potential or existing customer. The more clear and accessible this information the better: it could actually have a huge impact on your conversion rates! Customers want to know what they’re getting themselves into when they commit to a purchase through your website. Purchasing a product online means the customer hasn't had the chance to see their purchase in real life, so providing a clear refund policy helps to reassure and convince your customers that your products and website are legitimate. If you’d like to read more about how to reduce your return rates, here is a useful article.

    Australian e-commerce sites are part of the Trade Practices Act – a set of legislations that state your product is fit for purpose and as described. Ensuring product descriptions are accurate can also minimise returns and refunds. Most legal situations surrounding your business can be prevented, so long as you prepare your policies in advance, as opposed to trying to solve a problem once it arises. Consider including the following information as part of your refund policy:

    • Contact information/ procedure for refund request 
    • The time frame for a refund
    • The refund process (include any clauses regarding store credit or replacement of products)
    • The payment of shipping costs
    • Liability for damages 
    • Any other warranty information.

    Active Agreements

    If you want to add another level of protection to your ecommerce store, you could try implementing what’s called an ‘active agreement’.

    Some websites demand a simple acknowledgement and acceptance of their terms before completing a transaction, whereas others demand that a user accepts the terms of the website on arrival, as soon as they enter your site. This will prevent any disputes should a customer claim they were not aware of your Ts & Cs. In this instance, you as a business owner have clearly provided all information to the customer to avoid any discrepancies.

    Need help?

    For more information on getting the most out of your Shopify store, chat to us. We’re experts in optimising website content to ensure that you are communicating effectively with potential customers and maximising conversion rates.