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As your online business grows, setting down store policies and guidelines becomes all the more crucial. You should have some critical legal documents when you set up your business, and others you can implement as you increase your size and reach. These policies can help you and your employees comply with your legal obligations. What kind of policies your online business needs will depend on what kind of business you are. This article will outline: 

  • three key policies your online store needs when you start your business; and 
  • other policies or procedures you may need according to your situation and size.

Three Key eCommerce Legal Documents

When you set up your online business, whether you use an off the shelf e-commerce platform or design your own website, you need these three key policies that serve as legal documents limiting your liability. Ensure that these documents are easy to read and understand and use as little jargon as possible. These are set out below.

Business Terms and Conditions

Your business terms and conditions are the contract customers agree to when purchasing products from your site. They outline both you and your customers’ rights and obligations and the expectations attached to that. Your business terms and conditions would likely cover:

  • the exact nature of the product you provide;
  • payment terms;
  • applicable law, such as your consumer guarantees;
  • your intellectual property rights;
  • extra costs, such as delivery costs;
  • warranties;
  • disclaimers; and
  • limitations of liability.

Having a well-drafted terms and conditions document for your online business can help you avoid legal troubles in the future.

When customers complete a transaction on your website, make one of the transaction steps scrolling through your terms and conditions, and clicking “I Accept”. This way, it is clear that a customer has accepted the contract and you can enforce it against them in most cases.

Website Terms of Use

While your terms and conditions bind those who purchase from your online store, your website terms of use cover everyone who visits your website. This document outlines: 

  • the appropriate way visitors can interact with your website; and 
  • what you prohibit as well. 

With this document, you can limit your liability regarding what visitors do on your website. 

Much of its content will be similar to your terms and conditions, minus the clauses relating to the transactions themselves. You can include:

  • information detailing what is prohibited conduct;
  • disclaimers and warranties;
  • limitations of what you are legally responsible for; and
  • intellectual property licences and protection.

For example, if your business’ website has a forum component where users can upload images or make content, you can outline what is and is not appropriate to upload.

Privacy Policy

The third policy document you need is a privacy policy. Your online store will likely deal with customers’ personal information, which is any information that can identify an individual. This can include:

  • full names;
  • photos;
  • email addresses; and
  • payment details.

If your business deals with this information, you are bound by NZ privacy laws. Your privacy policy outlines how you comply with these obligations and informs your customers how you handle their data. Because your store is online, you deal with more personal data, and there is a higher risk of a privacy breach. So, you need to do more to comply with your privacy obligations. In your privacy policy, you need to outline what you do to protect privacy when you:

  • collect;
  • store;
  • use; and
  • share data.

Other Key Policies

You should draft the previous three policies and documents when you start your online store. However, there may be other policies you need depending on the:

  • size of your business; and
  • nature of your business.

For example, if your online store deals solely in digital purchases such as ebooks, you may not need a shipping policy, because you do not deliver physical goods. On the other hand, you would need one if you sell physical products.

As your business grows and you take on more staff, it may help to outline policies that act as guidelines for how they should handle online matters and customer service. Tailor them to suit your business and update them as appropriate. Below are some other policies that may be useful for your online business.

Shipping and Returns Policy

This details how you handle deliveries and customer returns or exchanges.

Cybersecurity Policy

This covers what cybersecurity measures your business has in place and procedures you maintain to protect your business.

Customer Service Policy

This outlines how your employees should act with customers and what service values are important to your business.

Social Media Policy

This covers how staff interact with customers on social media and social media use in the workplace.

Fraud and Corruption Policy

This outlines what measures you have put in place to combat fraud and corruption in your business.

Complaints Policy

You are legally obliged to handle customer complaints, so it may be useful for your staff to have guidelines for this task. You could also have an external version that outlines how customers can report a complaint.

Key Takeaways

When setting up an online store, you need three key documents and policies. These are:

  • terms and conditions;
  • website terms of use; and
  • a privacy policy.

However, you may need other policies that suit your online business’ unique circumstances. If you would like more information or help with your online store’s policies, contact LegalVision’s online business lawyers on 0800 005 570 or fill out the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

What policies does my NZ online store need?

Your online store needs three key policies: terms and conditions, website terms of use and a privacy policy. However, you should have other policies as well that cater to your business, such as a shipping policy or cybersecurity policy.

Do I need terms and conditions for my online store?

Yes, you need terms and conditions for your online store. This is the contract that customers accept when they purchase from your store.

What does my website terms of use cover?

Your website terms of use should cover what is and is not appropriate conduct for visitors to your site. It will also provide legal disclaimers and intellectual property protections.

What should go into my privacy policy?

Your privacy policy should detail how exactly you handle customers’ personal information. This includes how you collect, store, and handle their personal data.

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