If you run an ecommerce business using a WooCommerce store, you need a clear and robust set of Terms and Conditions. This will help you manage your relationships with your customers and can save you time, money and stress in the long term.
In this article, we're going to take a look at some of the clauses that are common to many ecommerce stores' Terms and Conditions. We'll also provide some examples from WooCommerce stores and other online retailers.
Do I Need Terms and Conditions For My WooCommerce Store?
It's very important for any ecommerce business to have a clear and well-drafted set of Terms and Conditions.
There are a number of important benefits to creating a Terms and Conditions agreement:
- It sets the rules for using your services and website
- It gives your customers a clear understanding of what to expect from your business
- It can limit or prevent legal issues
What Should I Include in My Terms and Conditions Agreement?
Your Terms and Conditions will be unique to your business. However, there are a number of sections that are included in almost every Terms and Conditions agreement.
You should provide contact details for your company in case your customers have any questions about your Terms and Conditions.
Here's an example from WooCommerce store Goodbody Wellness:
It isn't possible to obtain explicit acceptance from everyone who uses your website. Therefore, many businesses include a clause in their Terms and Conditions stating that the use of their website constitutes acceptance of their terms.
Here's an example from Exis Technologies:
Note that a "browsewrap" clause like this might not be enforced by the courts. However, you can point to this section of your Terms and Conditions if you need to take action against a customer.
Wherever possible, you should obtain explicit acceptance to your Terms and Conditions agreement.
Links to Other Legal Documents
Along with your Terms and Conditions, your business requires other legal documents.
You can incorporate your other legal documents within your Terms and Conditions. This means that when customers agree to your Terms and Conditions, they are also agreeing or acknowledging your other policies and agreements.
Here's how Optimal Geek does this:
Changes to Your Terms
Most businesses place a clause in their Terms and Conditions stating that they have the right to make changes to the agreement. Here's an example from AB Optics:
If you make significant changes to your Terms and Conditions, you should take all reasonable steps to notify your customers. If you have a customer's email address, you should notify them of significant changes to your Terms and Conditions via email.
Here's an example from GAME:
Note that the retailer states it will provide a 14 day notice of changes to its Terms and Conditions when "reasonably possible."
Prices and Availability
Occasionally, your store's displayed stock levels or pricing information might be incorrect. Many ecommerce stores include a clause in their Terms and Conditions stating that products advertised might not be available, or that prices are subject to change.
Here's an example of such a clause from Honeyrose Products:
Legally speaking, a clause like this might not be strictly necessary. Your customers can't demand that you sell them products you don't have. However, this is the kind of term that you can point to if a customer makes a complaint.
Payments and Billing
Your Terms and Conditions should refer to your billing practices. This section could detail:
- Accepted payment methods
- What will happen in the event of non-payment
- Payment schedules (if applicable)
Here's part of a Terms and Conditions agreement from Zooplus that outlines these details:
The clause above identifies the company's accepted payment methods, notifies the customer of when they will be charged, and explains that the company may invoice the customer in the event that their payment method fails.
Take a look at this section of Franksmile's Terms and Conditions agreement:
The company offers payment plans on certain purchases. This clause establishes that where a customer chooses to pay in installments, the customer accepts that they will be billed on a recurring basis.
You can use your Terms and Conditions to detail your shipping arrangements. This might include information such as:
- Your delivery costs
- Your delivery area
- Guidance on time-scales
- Cut-off times for express or next-day delivery
- Conditions of free delivery
Setting out your shipping arrangements in your Terms and Conditions helps you manage your customers' expectations.
Here's an example from the Lonely Planet online store:
This section of The Gluttonous Gardener's Terms and Conditions explains how customers can make last-minute changes to their order:
While you might not expect your customers to actually read your terms in full before placing an order, you can point to clauses like this if the customer is not happy with how you've processed their order.
You can use your Terms and Conditions to explain your WooCommerce store's returns policy. Alternatively, you can create a separate Returns Policy and incorporate that within your main Terms and Conditions.
Here's an example from outdoors goods retailer Blacks:
Blacks uses this clause to set out the time limits for refunds and the conditions of return.
Bear in mind that your customers may have consumer protections that entitle them to a refund under certain conditions. Your returns policy cannot override consumer rights that are determined by law.
It's essential for an ecommerce business to make punctual and reliable deliveries. However, there may be circumstances in which this is not possible.
You may wish to include a section in your Terms and Conditions that:
- Informs your customers that you might not always be able to deliver on time
- Explains what will happen if you deliver late
Here's an example from Pact Coffee:
Including a clause like this in your Terms and Conditions does not give you the right to disregard your promises to your customers. However, it does manage your customers' expectations.
Account Suspension and Termination
If you allow customers to create an account on your website, you can use your Terms and Conditions to grant yourself the right to suspend or terminate their account.
Here's an example from online retailer Macacha:
Macacha gives itself total discretion to suspend or terminate users' accounts. The company also provides examples of what it expects from its account-holders.
Disclaimer of Warranties
Goods and services are covered by certain "implied warranties." These are guarantees as to the quality of your products that are applied automatically.
In the United States, the two main implied warranties are:
- Merchantability: Goods must be of at least average quality, properly labeled, and fit for purpose (this only applies to professional retailers)
- Fitness for a particular purpose: Goods must be fit for the purpose for which they are sold (this applies to all sales where the buyer depends on the seller's expertise)
The Uniform Commercial Code § 2-316 (available here) provides that businesses can "disclaim" the implied warranties. This means that it is possible to tell your customers that these warranties do not apply to your goods.
You need to use very specific language when disclaiming the implied warranties (for example, "Goods are sold 'as is'"), and your disclaimers must be "conspicuous" (many businesses use upper case letters).
Here's an example from online retailer Opal Kelly:
This is a complicated area, and you'll need to understand the consumer laws relevant to your region. The law varies considerably even between US states, and the situation is very different in other jurisdictions such as the European Union.
Limitation of Liability
If your company causes someone a loss (for example, due to a mistake caused by your negligence), a limitation of liability clause can help limit the amount they can claim from you in compensation.
There's a closely-related type of clause known as an "exclusion of liability" clause. This attempts to prevent people from claiming any compensation from your company in the event that you cause them a loss.
Of these two types of clause, the courts are more likely to enforce a "limitation of liability" clause. Limitation of liability clauses are considered to be more reasonable, and are, therefore, more common in Terms and Conditions agreements.
Different businesses limit their liability in different ways. Some businesses limit the maximum amount of compensation they will pay to a specific figure. Other businesses will pay a portion of whatever the customer has paid to them.
Here's an example from Tracking Wonder:
There are several things worth noting about this limitation of liability clause:
That last point is particularly important, and is another reason why it's essential to understand how consumer law operates in the regions in which your company operates. For example, in the UK, it's not possible to limit liability for death or injury caused by negligence.
Here's another example, from the Terms and Conditions of Usabilla:
First, the company states that it will not be liable for certain types of damages. Insofar as the company accepts any liability, the maximum amount it will pay in damages will be no greater than the amount it received from the person in the twelve months preceding the person's loss.
Your website contains branding, images, and copy that are the intellectual property or your company or of third parties with whom you do business. Your Terms and Conditions and assert your copyright over these assets.
Here's how H&M does this:
You can insert a clause in your Terms and Conditions determining the jurisdiction in which any court cases between you and your customers will be heard.
Here's an example of a "governing jurisdiction" clause from Superbrands:
Choosing which jurisdiction's law governs your Terms and Conditions means that even if you don't actually end up in court, the agreement will be interpreted in accordance with a particular set of legal principles.
And if a court case does occur between your company and one of its customers, it's normally better to have a "home advantage" by having the case heard in the country or state in which your business is based.
How to Create a Terms and Conditions for Your Website
Ensuring Your Terms and Conditions are Enforceable
You can easily publish your Terms and Conditions in Wordpress (or any other website development software) by creating a new page called "Terms and Conditions."
Once you've created Terms and Conditions for your WooCommerce store, you need to ensure your customers accept them.
If you ever end up in court with one of your customers, you'll want to be able to demonstrate that they agreed to your Terms and Conditions. Otherwise, the court is unlikely to enforce the agreement.
It might seem unlikely that you'll end up in court with one of your customers, but these things do happen. And in fact, having a clear set of Terms and Conditions makes it less likely that you'll need to take legal action.
When Placing an Order
When a customer places an order, it's crucial to obtain their explicit acceptance of your Terms and Conditions.
There are two ways of doing this. The clearest way to obtain acceptance is to require the customer to check a box indicating that they agree to your Terms and Conditions before they place their order.
Here's an example from jewelry retailer H Samuel:
Other retailers don't provide a separate tick box. Instead, they state that by placing an order, the customer agrees to their Terms and Conditions.
Here's an example from Amazon:
Whenever you collect contact details or other personal information from your customers, you have an opportunity to ask them to agree to your Terms and Conditions.
Here's an example from UK Office Direct:
On Your Website
You should place a link to your Terms and Conditions in a footer on your website alongside links to other legal documents. Try to make this footer appear across as many pages of your website as possible.
Here's an example from Evans Cycles:
In Your Mobile App
You must also make your Terms and Conditions and other legal documents available via your mobile app (if you have one).
You can do this by placing a link to the live document in your "Settings" or "About" page.
Here's an example from the Samsung Galaxy Store app. Samsung makes its legal documents available via the app's "Settings" menu:
Here's an outline of some of the important sections you should include in your WooCommerce Store Terms and Conditions:
- Contact details for your company
- A clause stating that use of your services constitutes acceptance of your Terms and Conditions
- A clause that describes your right to make changes to your Terms and Conditions
- A section stating that the advertised pricing and availability of your products is subject to change
- A section dealing with payments and billing
- A section setting out the terms of delivery and giving notice of shipping costs
- A section detailing your returns policy
- A clause that notifies your customers that there may be unexpected delays in delivering their products
- A clause describing your right to suspend or terminate customers' accounts
- A disclaimer of warranties
- A limitation of liability clause
- A copyright notice
- A clause determining the governing jurisdiction in which and court cases arising from your Terms and Conditions will be heard
Ensure you obtain explicit acceptance of your Terms and Conditions at every reasonable opportunity, and make a link to your T&C accessible for users at any time they may wish to review it.