Legal writer at TermsFeed.
On this page
- 1. Retail Shopping in the Internet Age
- 2. Legal Policies for Retail Stores
- 4. Terms and Conditions Agreement for Retail Stores
- 4.1. Why Does Your Retail Store Need a Terms and Conditions Agreement
- 4.2. What Clauses Should Your Retail Store Terms and Conditions Include?
- 5. Return and Refund Policy for Retail Stores
- 5.1. How to Write a Return and Refund Policy
- 6. Disclaimers for Retail Stores
- 7. Where to Display Your Retail Store Legal Policies
- 8. Summary
As a retail store owner, you must provide a set of legal policies that explain important details about your business, such as your practices and conventions, the types of information you collect about customers and how you plan to use it, as well as customers' rights and available choices.
There are certain legal considerations you must address to protect your business from liability and promote transparency with your customers, and legal policies are the best way to do this.
In this article, we'll go over the various policies a retail store must maintain to fulfill its legal obligations and deliver a hassle-free shopping experience to customers. We'll also look at where you can display these policies to ensure that customers don't miss them.
Retail Shopping in the Internet Age
Although the world of trade today is becoming increasingly virtual thanks to ecommerce, brick-and-mortar retail stores continue to hold their own in the global economy.
According to a HubSpot study of the top shopping trends for 2022, 73% of customers prefer to purchase their products in-store rather than online. In essence, even though ecommerce adds a lot of convenience to the shopping experience, physical retail stores are still the preferred option for quite a number of shoppers.
However, in this age of convenience and rising internet penetration, there is no denying the importance of leveraging modern technology to enhance product offerings and serve customers better.
As a retailer, this could mean simply creating a presence on social media or, better yet, setting up a website to bring your store to the attention of the online community.
Now, you don't necessarily have to develop an ecommerce platform for your retail store. However, you should have a website to disclose vital information about your business to customers. Importantly, your website would also be the ideal location to display your various legal policies, which we'll discuss next.
Legal Policies for Retail Stores
In today's privacy-first world, virtually every business must provide several legal policies to explain key information about the business to customers.
While some of these policies are explicitly mandated by many privacy laws, others are necessary (though not legally required) to promote transparency, limit liability, and foster a relationship of trust and respect with customers.
Whether you run a physical retail store, an ecommerce website, or a mix of both, you need to maintain the following legal policies:
- Terms and Conditions agreement
- Return and Refund Policy
If your retail business uses an ecommerce model, you may also consider having a Shipping Policy.
Now, let's look at the policies for retail stores in more detail.
Various privacy laws define personal information differently, but it generally refers to any information that can be used "to identify a natural person." Typical examples include but aren't limited to names, email addresses, phone numbers, credit or debit card information, social media handles, and social security numbers.
As a retail store owner, you may collect personal information through different means, such as via online surveys, website cookies, social media interactions, or simply by asking customers for their data directly.
You may then use this information to predict customer preferences and cater to their needs accordingly. For instance, you could obtain email addresses to send advertisements or marketing emails to customers.
- What type of personal information you collect
- How you use personal information
- How and why you share personal information
- Privacy controls and rights of customers
- How you protect personal information
- How you handle children's personal information
- How you manage business transfers
- Your contact information
Here's an example of how Amazon presents these clauses at the beginning of its Privacy Notice before addressing the actual details later on:
Terms and Conditions Agreement for Retail Stores
As a retailer, a Terms and Conditions agreement helps you protect your business and set clear expectations for your customers. In other words, it explains what customers can expect from your business when they purchase products and what you expect from them in return.
Why Does Your Retail Store Need a Terms and Conditions Agreement
More specifically, having a Terms and Conditions agreement can help you:
- Regulate customers' behavior and conduct in your store or on your ecommerce website
- Limit your liability with regard to any oversight or inaccuracies in the content presented on your platform
- Deny a customer access to your service or terminate an account on your website if certain conditions aren't met or if store policy violations occur
- Take legal action against copyright infringement if your agreement has an intellectual property (IP) clause
What Clauses Should Your Retail Store Terms and Conditions Include?
To protect your store from legal issues, you'll need to (at least) include the following clauses in your Terms and Conditions agreement:
- An Introduction/Conditions of Use clause to inform customers that by purchasing goods from your store or using your website, they agree to obey your rules
- A User Rights, Responsibilities, and Guidelines clause to specify what rights customers have and what is expected of them, as well as how they can navigate your store or website appropriately
- An Acceptable Use and Prohibited Activities clause to explain which behaviors and actions are acceptable and which are not allowed
- A Governing Law clause to establish which country or state legal system and governing authority applies in the event of a legal dispute
- A Termination or Suspension clause to inform customers that access to your store or website, and any accounts associated with it, may be restricted or terminated if misconduct occurs or at your sole discretion
- An Intellectual Property clause to notify customers that the contents, logo, and other visuals you use are yours and are covered by copyright laws
- A Billing and Payments clause to explain your methods of payment, and related information
- A Limitation of Liability clause to limit the amount of compensation customers can claim in the event of a legal dispute
- A Disclaimer of Warranty clause to let customers know that your store or website is "As Is" and "As Available" and you don't accept any liability for issues with your product or service
- A Contact Information clause to help customers get in touch with your business
For example, Kohl's outlines the above information at the start of its Terms and Conditions agreement and immediately lets customers know that by purchasing from its stores and using its website, customers agree to be bound by its terms:
While not legally required, you can see how having a Terms and Conditions is crucially important for your retail store.
Return and Refund Policy for Retail Stores
A Return and Refund Policy is an agreement that explains how your business will handle product returns and under which conditions you may provide refunds.
This policy is a big deal for customers. It is the most important agreement your store or website must maintain to avoid disputes that hurt your relationship with customers.
While you ultimately determine the terms of your Return and Refund Policy, you should ensure that your terms are fair and meet the legal standards of the jurisdiction in which you operate.
For example, businesses are not legally required to provide a Return and Refund Policy under U.S. laws. However, some states require businesses that maintain this policy to prominently display it in key locations around their store and website.
Therefore, it's important that you first find out which return and refund laws apply to your business before you draft your policy.
How to Write a Return and Refund Policy
The content of a Return and Refund Policy varies depending on the practices of a business. Unlike the previous policies we've identified above, a Return and Refund Policy doesn't need to address many areas.
You merely need to answer a few key questions, such as:
- How long does a customer have to return a product?
- What processes must a customer follow to initiate a return?
- What conditions must be fulfilled for a customer to get a refund?
- What refund alternatives do you offer? (e.g., store credit, product exchanges, etc.), and
- Are there any fees involved in the entire process? (e.g., restocking fees, deductions from refunds, etc.)
- Other relevant information
In addition, it's a best practice to ensure that your Return and Refund Policy is written in simple, concise, and straightforward language.
The Home Depot, for instance, answers the above questions in its Return Policy, including how customers can return products to a store branch or online. Here's an excerpt:
Macy's also clearly and concisely addresses the necessary information in its Return Policy:
Make sure to include as much detail as possible in your Return and Refund Policy to help avoid confusion or upset with your customers.
Disclaimers for Retail Stores
A disclaimer is a statement that tells users that a business will not be held responsible for certain defects, errors, and damages that arise from using its services.
As a retailer, a disclaimer can be very useful for limiting your store's liability to customers. It provides an additional layer of protection by alerting customers of the risks involved in making certain purchases.
While a disclaimer can undoubtedly reduce your legal exposure, it's not a foolproof solution.
There are various types of disclaimers, such as third-party disclaimers, "As Is" disclaimers, and affiliate disclaimers, to mention a few. In other words, whichever kind of disclaimer you choose to implement will depend on your specific business needs.
Businesses typically include disclaimers in a section of their Terms and Conditions agreement like 7-Eleven does here:
Similarly, McDonald's provides an "As Is" and a third-party disclaimer within its Terms and Conditions agreement as shown below:
Now that we've identified the policies your retail store must maintain, let's briefly look at where you can display these policies.
Where to Display Your Retail Store Legal Policies
It's not enough to draft clear and transparent legal policies for your retail store. You also need to place these policies in conspicuous locations where your customers can easily access them.
For brick-and-mortar retail stores, the easiest way to accomplish this is to set up a website to host your various legal policies and refer customers to this website.
The most prominent places to display your legal policies within your website are as follows:
- Website header/footer
- Sign-up forms
- Shopping cart or checkout page (for ecommerce stores)
- Product description pages
- Within other legal policies
- Survey or newsletter forms
- FAQ page
Let's see some examples:
Gap also links its comprehensive Return Policy on its website footer, as we can see below:
Licensed Medical Health Counselor provides a disclaimer in its website header menu as shown below:
It's a best practice to make your legal policies as visible as possible, even outside your website. Where possible, you should post these policies in conspicuous places like by the register, on receipts, on social media pages, in emails you send to customers, and so on.
Despite the massive shift toward ecommerce in today's business world, physical retail stores remain a timeless classic for many shoppers.
Whether you run a physical retail store, an ecommerce website, or a combination of both, you must provide several policies to stay compliant with legal requirements and ensure a smooth flow of operations for your business.
In summary, these policies are as follows:
- A Terms and Conditions agreement that outlines the rules customers must observe to enjoy a hassle-free shopping experience at your store
- A Return and Refund Policy that explains how you handle product returns and whether you offer refunds or alternative compensation to customers
- A Disclaimer to limit your liability regarding inaccurate information and damages
Remember to place these policies in conspicuous places where customers will easily come across them (both on and off your website). Typical locations include but aren't limited to your website footer, sign-up forms, receipts, and emails sent to customers.