A Legal Checklist for a Retail Website

A Legal Checklist for a Retail Website The post A Legal Checklist for a Retail Website appeared first on The Network Journal.

A Legal Checklist for a Retail Website

Every small business needs a website of its own, especially if it’s looking to build a distinctive brand. There are three reasons:

* Everybody expects you to have one (if your name is ‘Suzie’s Fantasies’ and I don’t see you at www.suziesfantasies.com, it’s an instant credibility kill).

* There is only one place on the Internet — only one — where you can sell stuff and keep 100 percent of the profits, and that’s your own website.

* When you sell from your own website, you make the rules; when you sell on Amazon, eBay or anywhere else online, you have to follow their rules, and you may not agree with their rules.

What’s more, all your pages on social media, eBay, Amazon and elsewhere should have one primary goal: driving traffic to your website. Your website is where your best, highest-margin merchandise should appear.

The legal documents you need for a retail website are fairly straightforward.

Copyright notice

This isn’t strictly speaking a document, but the federal copyright notice should appear as a footer on ALL your webpages (not just your homepage). It will look something like this: “(c) 2023 Clifford R Ennico. All Rights Reserved.”

If you have a corporation or limited liability company (LLC), the copyright should be in the company’s name, not your individual name.

The “All Rights Reserved” part of the notice isn’t required by law, but it’s good to have: Translated into layperson’s English, it means “unless I’ve given you permission to use any of this stuff, you don’t have permission, so don’t do it unless you have a high tolerance for pain.”

Terms and conditions aka “the user’s agreement”

Yes, you are right; very few people read the legal documents on websites. There is, however, one who does: a lawyer representing someone who wants to sue you and is looking for loopholes to crawl through to make your life miserable.

For that reason, I’m not a fan of “plain English” legal documents for my clients’ websites. “Plain English” is not precise enough to prevent lawsuits; give me old-fashioned Legalese any day of the week.

Since nobody is reading your agreement anyway, why are you concerned about making it easy to read? These documents exist for one reason only: to protect you against liability. Let your lawyer go crazy here and make the document as tight and ironclad as possible.

Be sure the customer “accepts” your agreement terms as part of the checkout process. I really like the feature that requires customers to scroll down to the end of the document before the “I accept” button is enabled.

Returns and exchanges policy

Go to any UPS Store any day of the week and count the number of boxes with merchandise being returned to Amazon, Zappos and other online retailers. Your customers expect to know exactly when they can (and can’t) return merchandise.

Many retail websites bury this information in their “Terms and Conditions” document, and I think that’s a mistake. The “Returns and Exchanges Policy” should appear as a link at the bottom of each of your webpages. That way the customer can find the information they need easily, which will help stave off claims like “I didn’t know I couldn’t return the dress a year later.”

Wholesale terms

If you allow other businesses to have wholesale accounts, then your wholesale terms and conditions should also be spelled out in a separate policy document, again with a link at the bottom of each webpage.

Privacy policy

Every business website — not just retail — needs a policy saying what you will and won’t do with customers’ “personally identifiable” information, such as email addresses and credit card numbers.

Other policies

If you have lots of content on your website, consider a “Copyright and Permissions Policy” letting people know when and how they can use your copyrighted material. If you have blogs or other social media features on your site, you may need a separate “Social Media Rules and Regulations” document outlining acceptable behavior.

No two websites are exactly alike in their legal needs, so try not to borrow another site’s legal documents. Tell your lawyer what you’re planning to do on your website and have him/her custom tailor the documents you will need. It will be well worth the expense.

And if you do decide to “borrow” someone else’s documents, please be sure to change the company name and contact information before you post them online.

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