A stitch in time, saves nine. We have all heard this proverb but when it comes to your legal policies, this is the absolute truth. Legal issues definitely cost less to prevent than to solve.
Previously I wrote about the 3 most important legal documents to have in place before you sell online. However, because of different business models, methods of delivery and nature of business, there can be additional legals that you should incorporate on your website.
Before, I dive into the additional legals you might need for your business, let’s recap the 3 must-have legals for an online business. They are:
Your user agreement is sort of an instruction manual for your website visitors, customers and contributors. This document tells them what they can and cannot do while using your website.
Your website disclaimer protects you from any liability in the event that someone misconstrues and misuses any advice on your website.
Now with that quick refresher, if you are in online business, you will also need a set of supporting legal policies. These legal policies will vary depending on what type of business you are in.
Legals are the backbone of your business and your website that can greatly help you minimize risks.
Business legals make your job easier and assist with easy dispute management should any issues arise.
So, let’s assume that you have setup a website and looking to sell or take bookings online.
In a case like this, you will need to expand your Terms & Conditions to include specific legal policies for each different service on your website.
When you start building your online presence or selling online, you will need to address these additional legal policies on your website.
Whether you sell products or services, some of the most common additional legal policies that you need include:
E-commerce Legal Policies
1. Shipping Policies and Limitations
If you are e-commerce site, you should include information on:
- how you’ll ship the item (physical or digital)
- available shipping options and associated fees
- countries or locations you do not ship to
Other things to add are:
- method of shipping and delivery
- additional costs of handling or delivery
- expected time frames for delivery
- insurance requirements and liability
- any other matter impacting on your shipping processes.
2. Refund & Return Policies
There may be a situation when a consumer may not be happy with what they purchase. In such a case, list your refunds & returns policy including information on:
- communication channels for requesting a refund or return
- accepted time frame for refunds or returns
- refund and return application process
- time frame the consumer can expect their refund or return
- any applicable administration fees
- how much refund is redeemable
- who pays for shipping and reissuing costs
- liability for damages or wrong choice
- warranty information
These policies must comply with Consumer Law requirements of the jurisdiction where your business is located so I do recommend you have your Terms of Sale drafted or at least reviewed by a lawyer.
3. Payment Policies
There needs to be a clear instruction on the different modes of payments you offer for your services. Your payment policy will enable your customers to make a choice on the payment modes that is most convenient for them.
Online Course/Program Terms & Conditions
Legal policies for online courses help you and the customer to understand:
- how the course is run
- the content and delivery
- what to expect
- their obligations regarding participation outcomes
- a disclaimer about what the course will not do
- request process for refunds and cancellations
- Copyright and Intellectual Property information
Membership Site Legal Policies
If you offer a service that requires a membership of any kind, you would want to include information that includes the following:
- Terms of participation
- Membership content
- Copyright and Intellectual Property information
- Membership terms, renewal and cancellation conditions
When you sell someone else’s products and get a commission, or vice versa, there is a monetary benefit to it. If you offer an Affiliate Program on your website, you need to have clear information on the following:
- Enrollment process
- Promoting the affiliate service
- Commission percentage
- Payouts/Payments types
- Tax information where needed
Top Tip: If the Terms and Conditions are for customers visiting your website, then browser wrap agreements are used, and if your policies are for customers who have purchased products then click wrap agreements are used.
I know all this can feel really overwhelming, especially if you have just started out in business.
I completely understand that money is tight in start-up. There is a temptation to DIY your legal policies to save some money. But please keep in mind that seeking legal assistance is a really smart move for your business. You will get it right from the start and protect your business at the same time, now and in the future.
The money you spend on legal advice at the start of your business journey is A LOT CHEAPER than legal advice when something goes wrong later down the track.
Lawyer, Contract Specialist, Speaker & Advocate for Women in Business.
Drawing on more than 15 years’ experience as a lawyer and a woman in business, Shalini Nandan-Singh helps Australian service-based entrepreneurs protect their businesses and their bottom lines with empowered legal advice and contracts.
Encouraging listeners to #loveyourlegals, Shalini firmly believes that business legals should be an authentic extension of your business. Her goal is to educate audiences that, rather than confusing legalese, business legals should be an authentic extension of your business, creating positive business boundaries that support you in working with your clients with compassion and understanding.
Disclaimer: This blog is written to support business owners to consider legal requirements and issues that may arise in business. The information provided is for general and educational purposes only. It is not intended as legal advice for your individual circumstances. Please consult your lawyer for advice specific to you and your business.