You know you need terms of service to operate, but the task of writing your own can sound daunting. It’s a big legal document, so you want to get it just right.
To help you navigate the process, we’ve put together this straightforward guide on how to create terms and conditions for your eCommerce store.
t covers what you need to feature, along with ideas and examples to help you build your terms of service the right way.
Plus, we’ll share one simple tool that helps you get all this done in minutes!
It is likely that you will encounter a number of legal documents in your life. In fact, it comprises aspects of everyday life all the time. Every time you engage in a service, especially online, you will most certainly be required to read and agree to a Terms of Service and Terms and Conditions.
Like any major legal document, your terms of service should be tailored to the services, products, and experience you provide. It’s hard to achieve that though without knowing where to start.
To help you build your online store terms of service, here’s our guide on what to include. These are the sections that we feature in our very own free terms and conditions generator, based on what’s both necessary and useful to your customers.
Start your terms of service off with an introductory section. This is where you can outline who you are, how you operate, and what this document covers.
Keep this simple with a one-line statement that explains to the reader what your terms of service covers, or go into more detail by sharing your approach to delivery, privacy, and experience. The choice is yours — the main goal here is to kick off the document before jumping into the “legalese”.
From time to time you’ll need to update your website terms of service to make sure they still reflect what you offer and how you operate. Make your customers aware of this by including a few lines about your approach to terms and conditions updates.
This section can be as simple as a statement that your terms of service may be updated in the future, and that continued use reflects ongoing agreement of this. You could also share that you plan to keep customers updated on any changes and how — for example by email or in-app notifications.
Your terms of service are a legal document, which means that for your visitors to continue using your eCommerce website they need to make a legal agreement. This part of your terms and conditions agreement outlines exactly what that means, and how it happens.
Here’s how we handle this within our terms of service generator:
“The following terms and conditions, together with any documents and/or additional terms they expressly incorporate by reference constitute a legal agreement (collectively, this "Agreement") and are entered into by and between you ("you", "your", "User") and [Company Name] ("Company" "we" "us", & "our").
This Agreement contains very important information regarding your rights and obligations, as well as conditions, limitations, and exclusions that apply to your access and use of [Website URL] (the "Website "). Please read the Agreement carefully.”
This text is then followed by a statement that confirms what happens if a user continues to access or use the website. This often involves an acceptance of the terms, a statement that the user can reasonably make this commitment, and any statements of risk.
Like any agreement, your terms of service document comes with a list of responsibilities for your website visitors to follow. These are often simple, but worth noting so there’s no confusion over what’s required or expected.
Think about what using your website involves, and the kind of information and actions your visitors take. In this section, you might want to cover your users’ responsibilities around the following:
As a service provider or online retailer, you have way more responsibilities than your customers. Still, they need to be aware of their role within the agreement.
Most of us use websites and the information within them for their intended purpose. Chances are, most of your website visitors are there to browse your online store, buy, or compare products for a future purchase. Still, some users might have other reasons to use your services.
What you consider a prohibited activity may differ from another eCommerce store owner, but here are some common prohibited activities to include on your list:
This list might look alarming, but it’s helpful to be clear that these actions are not acceptable. While many of these are obviously disruptive or harmful, others — like shopping using your own referral link — may not be an immediately obvious term of service violation. Transparency here helps build a better picture of what’s acceptable within your community.
With any eCommerce site, you’re likely to have a lot of imagery and content that’s unique to your online store. It’s only natural to want to protect the use of that content through an intellectual property clause.
Photographs, product descriptions, brand names, graphics, logos, and videos are all examples of content that could be covered by intellectual property rights. All of these were created by someone, and owned by you through your own work or the licensing of others’.
You might also want to cover what happens with user-submitted content. Take a look at the Skims terms of service to see how this looks in action:
Make sure this section includes a statement that outlines your approach to content rights and clearly explains that you retain ownership of all content. If some content is not owned by you, you can respect this by referring to your “licensors” without needing to list every creator.
It’s not always clear to the average website user that they shouldn’t take your photos and use them to promote their own store, or to create an impressive Instagram feed. You want people to save images so they can review and compare for their own personal use, but not for commercial reasons. Make it clear what’s acceptable within your rights to access section.
Feature a statement here that gives your customers rights to view and download content for personal reasons, so they can build their own mini moodboard or share images with friends to get their opinions. This is the kind of content sharing you want to encourage.
It’s also important to include wording that clearly sets out unacceptable use — such as the republication, distribution, or sub-licensing of your content. This helps protect you against unauthorized use of your content from copycat websites, competitors, and aggregators.
If you work with influencers, you might want to create an adapted version exclusively for your contracts with them. This would give them a more generous way to share your content, without falling foul of your terms of service.
You need a way to enforce your rights against people that decide not to follow your website terms of service. In this section you’ll outline what this involves, so it’s clear what the potential outcomes of unauthorized use are.
In most cases, this is simple. You’ll want to be able to do the following:
It’s also a great idea to include a waiver here that absolves you from any issues that arise from the way that someone interacts with your website. Here’s how we handle this within our terms of service generator:
“You are solely and entirely responsible for your use of the website and your computer, internet, and data security.
You waive and hold harmless company and its parent, subsidiaries, affiliates, and their respective directors, officers, employees, agents, service providers, contractors, licensors, licensees, suppliers, and successors from any and all claims resulting from any action taken by the company and any of the foregoing parties relating to any, investigations by either the company or by law enforcement authorities.”
This makes it clear that it’s the user’s responsibility to follow your terms of service, and to be careful of how they navigate the online space. It means that your website visitors can’t then hold you responsible for their own unauthorized use of your website.
Almost every website contains links to third party content or websites. While it’s a great idea to be responsible when linking to other websites, you can never guarantee that the content won’t change in the future. This means it’s essential to include a statement about third party links and content.
Here’s an example from Ponyback Hats:
This section doesn’t need to be long. Simply include a line or two about your policy on linking to third party content, and that any link or inclusion is not an endorsement or recommendation. Ask your visitors to follow links at their own risk, and be clear that you’re not responsible for any loss or damage from doing so.
It’s not very often that you’ll need to enforce it, but you still need to make sure that your terms of service are set up to protect you in case something goes wrong. This makes disclaimers and a limitation of liability clause a must-have.
Even with the best efforts, you’ll run into situations that you can’t control. There may be a disruption to your delivery network, a misdescribed product, or an unsuitable ad shown by your ad network partner. With a robust list of disclaimers, plus a statement of indemnification, your website visitors won’t be able to challenge you for unexpected problems like the above.
At its simplest, you want to make sure that your visitors understand you provide the information on your website “as is” and that there’s no guarantee of things like accuracy, suitability, or availability.
Here’s an excerpt from our own terms of service that covers liability:
This is one area of your terms of service where you might want to seek legal advice — especially if the service or products you offer are complex, subject to additional restrictions, or can result in outcomes like personal injury. It’s always best to make sure you’re fully covered, and that there’s no room for interpretation when it comes to your limitation of liability clause.
With people browsing your eCommerce store from all over the world, you need to make sure they understand what the applicable laws are when it comes to governance. This is commonly shared through a governing law clause.
Share which state, country, or jurisdiction governs the use of your website, and therefore the laws that will apply. Often this is the location where your business is incorporated, or where your head office is located. This makes it easy for you to engage in any legal dispute resolution or arbitration, should you need to.
Here’s an example from our terms of service generator for a business based in British Columbia, Canada:
Your governing law clause clearly explains which jurisdiction’s laws apply, and sets the ground for where any dispute resolution takes place. It helps prevent a situation where someone wishes to pursue arbitration in another state or country, which could be detrimental to your cause.
Think of this section as a “catch all” for any other clauses or statements that you want to include, that don’t necessarily fall into the other headings.
Here are some examples of areas you might wish to cover in this miscellaneous section:
In this section, it’s also a great idea to feature a statement that covers what happens if any of your clauses aren’t enforceable.
Here’s a simple way to say this:
“Should any part of this Agreement be held invalid or unenforceable, that portion shall be construed consistent with applicable law and the remaining portions shall remain in full force and effect.”
Without a disclaimer like this, you could be open to a challenge that renders none of your terms enforceable. That’s a big problem, which can easily be solved with a few lines of text near the end of your terms of service document.
While your visitors can find this information elsewhere on your website, it’s best practice to feature your contact details at the end of your terms of service. That way, people can easily get in touch to ask about your terms while they’re on the page.
To offer the best experience, including the following:
If you have a dedicated person handling your legal or data privacy communications, name them here or let your visitors know which department to get in contact with. This helps them get an answer faster, and means your customer support team isn’t tied up with transferring calls or chats.
Looking at the guide above, you might think that creating your own terms of service is complicated or time-consuming. The great news is, you can create user-friendly terms of service in no time at all using our free terms and conditions generator.
Our generator follows the structure above, which means you end up with a document that’s clear, easy to follow, and gives you the functionality you need to operate. Our eCommerce terms and conditions template is lawyer-drafted too, and automatically updated to reflect changing international legislations.
We’ve designed our terms and conditions generator with online stores in mind. It’s compatible with major eCommerce platforms like Shopify, Woo, BigCommerce, and Wix, so you can easily build and display your terms of service to online shoppers. You can also add relevant clauses to your terms, created specifically for niche eCommerce scenarios.
With our generator, you can create and customize your very own terms of service with a few clicks. You get a document that’s tailored to your business, created with the complexities and nuances of eCommerce stores in mind.
To get started, head straight to our free terms of service generator. You’ll be guided through the simple process, and emerge the other side with a set of personalized, website-ready terms and conditions.