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Terms, conditions, and policies: what they are and why your online store needs them

Terms, conditions, and policies: what they are and why your online store needs them

It’s true that terms and conditions and privacy policies are small print details, but they make a big impact in your ability to do business through your online store. Here’s what you need to know about them. 

You need a privacy policy

Online business operators are required by law to have a privacy policy in place if they collect data from their customers, which every ecommerce business that takes payment from customers does. Data collected can include collecting email addresses, shipping addresses, names, and any other personal information. 

Having a privacy policy in place keeps you in line legally while reassuring customers that you will respect their personal information. Even if customers don’t read your privacy policy in its entirety, having it visible and easily accessible in your online store will go a long way in building trust and legitimacy. Having such a policy will also hold you accountable as the business owner and help you understand how to protect your customers. 

You will probably want terms and conditions

Also known as a Terms of Service Agreement, terms and conditions are recommended by not legally required in order to run an online business. Essentially, they are an outlined agreement between you and your customer and they can protect your business in a few ways. 

Protection from abuse

In your agreement you should state the intended use of your online store and outline courses of actions you might take should you feel that a user is causing your online business harm by, for example, posting defamatory comments, installing malware, or other malicious behaviour. 

When customers use your online store, they are agreeing to your terms and conditions and should they violate this agreement you can ban users as you see fit. You might even decide to include an account termination clause just in case. 

Intellectual property protection

Your terms and conditions should also state that your ecommerce business’ name, logo, and other original content is your own and protected by international copyright laws. If you find copycats you will have some recourse and proof that your intellectual property is in fact yours. 

Liability limitations

Especially relevant for online stores selling inventory made by others, a warranty disclosure states that you as the store owner are not liable for any inaccuracies or misinformation presented in product pages or in the store as a whole. 

How to create an ecommerce privacy policy or terms of service agreement

You can hire a lawyer to draw up a privacy policy or a terms of service agreement for you, though it will likely be pricey. Another route is to use Shopify’s Privacy Policy Template or Shopify’s Terms of Service Agreement Generator, both of which are free and designed specifically for ecommerce businesses. 

Find more helpful articles in The ultimate guide to starting an online store. 

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