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e-Commerce websites are springing up everywhere.
|Internet technology has changed the face of business. In one of my earlier posts, I wrote about the e-commerce evolution and how it affects everything else.
e-Commerce entrepreneurs continue to open shop online. Everyone wants to start an e-commerce site. From Nigeria to Kenya, South Africa to India, China to Dubai, the e-race is growing and deepening. Everyone wants to have a bite.
Don’t expose your e-commerce website to avoidable risks.
Before you have that bite, ever wondered if you need to protect your e-commerce site from dangerous risks?
Yes, you do.
Business is a risk, whether online or offline. You need to protect yourself against online transactions that may go wrong.
It makes a lot of sense to include certain terms and conditions to protect your business against risk. It’s in your best interest.
As the e-commerce site owner, you need to bind visitors or customers to certain legal terms. Some e-commerce sites have very elaborate terms and conditions; others don’t. I think it depends on what works for you. If your nature of business requires more elaborate terms and conditions, by all means protect yourself. An eBook store will likely have less terms and conditions than an online pharmaceutical store.
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Before you prepare your terms of service, think about your e-commerce business.
What are the products or services you’ve put up for sale on the site? Who are your target buyers? Are they local or international visitors or both? What are you offering them, and at what price? Apart from payment, is there any other thing your customers are required to drop on your site? Do you have any warrantee or guarantee for what you sell? How long do they have to return, if returnable.
The questions above give you a general idea of what you need to include in your e-commerce terms and conditions.
10 terms you should include on your e-commerce site.
Now let’s look at the main areas you need to watch out for:
1. Website Use (or “Use of the Website” as couched in most sites): as the website owner, inform the site visitor or customer that by accessing your website, he or she has warranted to you that he or she is legally entitled to use it. This is necessary because of the legal regulations that govern legal capacity to contract. Persons under 18 are not allowed to use any site nor the information contained there. The website user may not also use your e-commerce products and services improperly, offensively, or unlawfully.
2. Trademarks: include a term stating that you’ve not granted any licence or right to the website visitor to use your trademark(s), name(s), and icon(s). This is very important. It helps protect the goodwill of your business against dishonest use. If the website visitor must use it, it should be with your permission.
3. External links:because you have no control over the external links you’ve provided on your website, you cannot make the visitor rely on its content. So let the user know you have not guaranteed that the content of those links at the other end are safe and reliable. If visitors decide to rely on such links, it will be at their own risk (since you already warned them not to).
4. Warrantees: avoid making warranties or guarantees about your e-commerce site. Don’t say it; don’t imply it. At best, let the law imply it- what lawyers refer to as implied terms. As an entrepreneur, you’re in the business of selling goodwill. A good name is worth more than a billion naira. So you should’ve no problems with meeting the minimum (implied terms).
5. Disclaimer of liability: as the website
owner, you are always tempted to offer customers the best deal. But be careful. Being careful means you must disclaim liability for any any loss, damage, personal injury, or expense of any nature that anyone may suffer for using your website. Even for errors, omissions, or delays, use a disclaimer notice to protect yourself.
6. e-Payments: it’s difficult finding an e-commerce site that does not use credit cards as means of payment for products and services. Others include Paypal and other online payment processors. In your terms and conditions, state that if the website visitor uses a credit card, he or she is representing that the credit card is issued in his or her name. He or she will also incurs all charges and pays to the credit card issuer.
7. Conflict of terms: sometimes in the course of describing and marketing a product or service’s features, you contradict yourself. The contradiction may even apply to any of your website terms and conditions, notices, or policies. Website users might have relied on one and not see the other. That’s not good for business nor your reputation, but the error has been made.
What can you do about it? Protect yourself from the effect.
That’s why you need to include a conflict-of-terms clause in your terms and conditions. It will simply say that where there is contradiction, only one of the features, terms and conditions, notices, or policies that is more specifically relevant to the related section that shall prevail.
8. Severability: no one wants to lose everything. You at least want to hold on to something. Whether after a war, flood, or fire outbreak, you want to draw out some of your belongings from the debris. That’s what severability does. So anything that can’t be possibly enforced anymore because it is void, invalid, illegal, or whatever can go, but the remaining part shall still apply fully. Usually, it arises where jurisdictions have different regulations- one restrictive, the other unrestrictive. What’s lawful in Nigeria may not be lawful in the UK. In a situation like this, you might lose one part of the transaction in London but save the remaining in Lagos.
9. Applicable laws: should anything go wrong, you don’t want to get it wrong the second time. Your terms and conditions must include a provision for what laws apply. This term takes care of the choice of venue and forum. State the law governing the transaction. Is it the Laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria or the Laws of the United States of America? By using your site, the visitor has effectively agreed that the law you chose exclusively applies to any dispute that may arise from the transaction.
|Image credit: eTradeservices.com
Prepare and publish the terms and conditions.
Now that you’ve a list to work with, we are close to having our e-commerce terms and conditionscompleted. Just follow the following steps:
1. Prepare the terms and conditions. When you’re done, you can title it ‘Terms & Conditions’. That’s clear enough.
2. Publish the Terms of Service on your website. Apart from creating a web page for it, you can make it available for downloaded as well.
3. Include it in your navigational menu. The footer (bottom page) is good too but your visitors may not see it. You don’t want them to miss it!
4. To make your ‘Terms & Conditions’ even more obvious, introduce a checkbox on the payment form or platform. “I’ve read and agreed to the terms and conditions” is the shape this usually takes. Once accepted, it’s binding on the customer.
You’re now ready to go!
Get the best out of the e-commerce evolution.
Apart from the 10 terms and conditions I have listed above, there are others your website might need. I can’t exhaust them all here.
Be sure you never “copy and paste” the terms of service of another site. Never. It can destroy your business.
If you need any help with other terms of service to protect your e-commerce website, you can contact me.
There is no reason you shouldn’t be making the best out of the present e-commerce evolution.