The process of selling a product to a customer online is a legal transaction, a form of contract. The terms and conditions of an online store must be tailored to create binding language surrounding the critical issues involved in the sale.
Terms and Conditions
Ah, aren’t all terms and conditions the same? In a word – no. While one can often use pre-printed legal forms offline to handle transactions, the same is not true online.
The problem is state law governs contracts. When you use a form invoice purchased at your local office supply store, the form is written to comply with the laws of your state. The vast majority of visitors to your e-commerce store are not going to be located in your state. This location issue makes blanket forms not only useless but dangerous since the language might violate the law of one state or another. Don’t use this junk!
E-commerce Terms and Conditions
The terms and conditions for an online store tend to be lengthy. The reason is there is much to cover in the financial transaction. Typical issues include:
- Return policies,
- Pricing policies,
- Shipping policies,
- Sales tax collection practices,
- Payment processing procedures,
- How the store secures customer information,
- How copyright infringement claims are handled [DMCA] as well as your DMCA agent designation,
- Trademark notices,
- Customer account obligations [sharing account with others],
- Linking to third-party site policies,
- Disclaimers of warranties and guarantees,
- Choice of forum clauses, and
- Other clauses specific to your site
You must tailor each of these topics to your actual practices. Failure to take this step can leave a site exposed to attack.
It is important to understand the terms and conditions for most sites are wrong, even the big boys. Zappos had its terms invalidated in 2012 and is now staring at a staggering multi-million dollar class-action lawsuit. You don’t have to be a large company to suffer the same fate.
Customization A Must
You must customize the terms and conditions for any online store to reflect your specific practices on topics such as refunds, returns, and so on. If you fail to take this step, you are essentially dropping to your knees and asking to be sued. It is that simple. Contact me today for a free consultation to avoid the fate of so many companies online that have terrible terms and conditions.
Richard A. Chapo, Esq.
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