Selling goods online? Here are five keys points to include in online terms and conditions

31 Aug 2017

Consumers are increasingly using the internet to purchase goods and obtain services as well as purchasing digital content, for example e-books.

There are many benefits to trading online for a business.  It offers businesses access to a large number of consumers and avoids overheads associated with trading from stores.  Businesses who trade online, whether they are traditionally based in store or started online, should have terms of business which are specifically geared towards online trading.

This blog sets out five key points to include in terms and conditions for businesses who are selling goods online to consumers:

Contract formation

Often overlooked by businesses, this is a key term to include in contracts which are concluded online.  It’s important as it determines when the business’s obligation to manufacture, order and/or send the goods commences.

You want to ensure that the customer’s order is, legally, an “offer” and that you are entitled to “accept” or “reject” that offer.  If you accept the order, a contract is formed at which point your obligations to the consumer under the contract start.

You should also ensure that the consumer clearly “accepts” that the terms and conditions apply to their order through proper incorporation into your website.

By way of an example, if a customer places an order for delivery outside of the UK, and your business only delivers to the UK, you will have the right to reject that order.

Goods

A well drafted terms and conditions will include a term which explains that, while the business does its best to ensure that images of the goods are accurate, those images may vary slightly from the goods themselves.  An example of variation would be in relation to colour which can depend on the device the customer is using to order the product.

Delivery of the goods

How are you going to deliver the goods, what are the timescales of doing so and what are the associated costs?  In addition, what happens if you are unable to deliver the goods due to customer or due to the business?

Generally, the contract is only completed once the goods are delivered, and until that time they are the business’s responsibility.  Businesses need to ensure that, where they are not delivering goods themselves, they are using reputable carriers and that they are given sufficient comfort in the carrier’s terms and conditions.

Consumers right to change their mind

This right will apply to the majority of goods purchased online.  It allows consumers the right to change their mind, for no reason, within 14 days and receive a full refund.  There are certain goods which this right will not apply to, for example bespoke products, so you need to ensure that this right is clearly explained and any exceptions are clearly set out.

Problems with the goods

Terms and conditions should include a clear explanation of how a consumer can contact a business in relation to any problems with the goods.  This should include by telephone, email and post and may also provide for a website based “contact us” page.  Businesses should make it as easy as possible to allow consumers to contact them to resolve any problems, as consumers who feel aggrieved may choose to vent their frustrations online on social media or through a negative review.

At Colman Coyle we are experienced in advising and assisting online businesses with drafting their terms and conditions.  We work closely with the client and its website developer to ensure that the terms and conditions reflect the working practices of the client, comply with the law and are properly integrated into the website.

If you have any questions regarding online terms and conditions contact us on 020 7704 3421 or email us at enquiries@colmancoyle.com.

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