Today, I’m going to speak to you about having your business online, and is your presence online actually protected legally and adequately enough. Many businesses these days have both a physical store, but they also have a very big online presence. It doesn’t have to be that your e-commerce and all you have is your online website and sell through your website solely to your customers, but you can have obviously a component of your business online.
In addition to the responsibilities as a physical retailer of goods, online businesses also have additional components that they need to be thinking about when you’re setting up your business online, or alternatively, if you’ve been running a business online for a substantial period of time. These things include a certain number of additional legal obligations you need to think about including payment terms, privacy of your customers, how you’re going to handle and connect with your customers online, and also while still staying compliant with Australian Consumer Law. There’s a range of legal documents that you can have in place that will ensure that your business is protected for these particular things and these additional legal obligations.
Terms and Conditions
What are terms and conditions? Essentially, it’s a contract between your business and your customers that sets out the obligations of each party. There can be a number of factors that are in them, and that can be as complex as you need for your particular business. They should cover a range of issues such as product delivery, payment terms, your ability to charge interest if the payment’s late, refunds, warranties and indemnities, limits on your liability, intellectual property, and certain things like that. Written business terms and conditions can also minimise the possible disputes that your business may have. The reasoning for this is it sets out with certainty the obligations of each party and when you’re going to contract with each other.
You can also use your business terms and conditions as a marketing tool. Ultimately, what they do is they set out both your rights but also the customer’s rights, which is a good thing for them to know prior to entering into transactions with you, and this way it can also give you some ability to utilise those for your professional image for your business.
There’s five key features that I’d like to see in your business’s terms and conditions.
The first one is the products and services, what you’re providing, when it’s going to be delivered.
The second one is when you’re going to charge, and whether if the payment is late, you can charge interest, and how that would work.
The third one is your mandatory consumer guarantees and your refund policy that’s required under your Australian Consumer Law.
The fourth one, a dispute resolution, and that’s just to ensure that if there is a dispute, it can be worked out cost-efficiently and as quickly as possible.
The fifth one, limitations on your liability. That’s just to ensure that obviously if there is an issue with liability, it sets out who’s responsible at what particular point in time.
The next main point would be when you provide your business terms and conditions to your customers. It’s not actually required that your customers sign your terms and conditions every time, which is sometimes a misconception that businesses have. They can be referred to on your quotes. They can also be emailed out to your customers, or provided on your website with a click button, do you agree to the terms and conditions, which we see so often? Whether your clients read it or not, is not actually relevant. It’s up to them to utilise it if they want to read them, but you don’t need to confirm that they have.
Once your client’s actually accepted your quote or advised you to proceed or bought your product or service, they’ve actually accepted your terms and conditions, and at that point, the contract is formed between your business and your customer.
Website & Email Disclaimer
Lastly, a website and email disclaimer. You’ll see this on most websites that you visit, and if you’re getting promotional emails, you’ll probably also see the email disclaimer on the bottom of those emails. It just sets out that your liability is limited in relation to that information you are providing.
If you have any further questions about anything that I’ve discussed today, or you want a review of your current documents that are in place, please feel free to give me a call.