Having the correct eCommerce terms and conditions in place is essential for every business. As marketers ourselves, we believe marketing has a key role to play in influencing policies. Marketing is the voice of the customer after all. Returns, delivery, GDPR – these areas have a big impact on buying decisions. Although t&c’s are fundamentally a legal document there’s still plenty of space to play with when it comes to using t&c’s to innovate and stand out in a noisy marketplace.
To get an expert perspective, we invited legal consultancy BEB to share their knowledge on the importance of personalised eCommerce terms and conditions. With 35+ years in the business, if they don’t know it, it’s not worth knowing.
Why It’s Essential to have Bespoke eCommerce Terms and Conditions
Terms & Conditions should be the first legal document that you put in place when starting a new business. Time and time again, we at BEB see clients coming to us once things start going wrong. This might be invoices being chased, obligations being disputed, contracts being walked away from and dissatisfied customers doing all they can to get a refund.
Taking terms & conditions from a similar business will not protect you the way having them tailored to your business will. Not only will they not be as specific, but they may be illegal, you may not be able to rely on them in court, and they may not have even been written professionally to begin with. Another benefit to having tailored documents means that you will be able to fully understand them and clear up any queries your customers may have, thus improving the relationship.
You only need one set of terms & conditions for your business, even if you offer various services. BEB charge a fixed price for documents, which is great since it is a document that you can use time and time again for every future client, knowing that your business is properly protected.
Why is it Important to have Written Terms?
When your business is an online shop it is crucial that you have your eCommerce terms and conditions clearly stated on your website and that each transaction is bound by them.
There are many reasons why…
One of the main reasons is to ensure you are kept up-to-date with relevant legislation and regulations that protect consumers. With the law on your customers side your terms are your protection that seeks to ensure that sometimes the ‘customer isn’t always right.’
An example of this is, you must offer a minimum cooling-off period of 14 days for consumers to cancel the contract from the date on which it was formed. Then a further 14 days after delivery. You must state the laws for online and distance selling as you are required to share certain information. You will be penalised if you do not do so. If your terms are not legally compliant and therefore not enforceable this could have a real negative effect on any relationship or professional image you may have.
What is your returns policy? Who pays for postage? If you don’t state what customers must do when returning an item then automatically you must cover this cost. There are lots of things to consider regarding delivery too. What would you do if the item was sent back to you as it wasn’t able to be delivered? It wouldn’t be fair for you to pay for delivery again since it was down to the customer not collecting the goods from the local depot. What about faulty goods? What is your process? Are you sure you’re acting within consumer law when dealing with unhappy customers?
Having a well-written set of eCommerce terms & conditions will fully protect your position should any problems arise. Think about who would be your most awkward customers and how would you respond to them if they had an issue with any sale. Your terms become your go-to guide should you deal with a complaint.
GDPR and Terms and Conditions
If you are still thinking that you can continue business without terms & conditions, or by using ones you have taken from another company, then look at it in a different way. Having one agreement that applies to all future clients provides you with a much more professional image. Your customers will have more confidence when buying from you as they will feel comfortable and see that you take your business seriously.
This post was written by Kerry Gibbs, legal account manager at BEB Consultancy. Kerry has a BA Hons (Criminology with Law) degree and also completed a Graduate Diploma in Law at Birmingham City University. She is currently studying for a Masters in Business Law at De Montfort. She particularly enjoys getting up to speed with new laws that affect businesses like GDPR and also supporting B2C businesses with her Consumer law knowledge.