A well-designed website can boost the sales generated by your retail store. However, it is essential that you incorporate a terms of use, terms and conditions (T&Cs) page and a privacy policy page as they will provide distinct legal safeguards for both you and your customers.

What is the difference between these?

Privacy policy

Websites must include a privacy policy agreement if they collect or use personal information. For example, this will be the case if you ask shoppers for their name or email address because you want to update your customer database.

The details you require can include anything that will identify individuals, such as their:

  • First and last name
  • Email address
  • Mailing address
  • Date of birth
  • IP address

Online sites also need to follow both national and international privacy laws. Several US states have personal privacy laws that differ from one another. For example, in California, online stores must have a privacy policy page before they gather any customer information.

In the European Union, e-commerce sites must comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). It doesn’t matter whether your company is operating in an EU country or the US, as soon as your online store engages and transacts with EU citizens, you need to ensure that your privacy policy complies with the GDPR.


Website Terms of Use

This legal document outlines the clauses and requirements that relate to the use of your website. For example, they will cover:

  • Copyright infringements – what happens if a competing website steals your images or copy
  • Termination of user accounts
  • Abuses of user privilege


Legally, your online store is not required to have website terms of use. Nevertheless, you should consider doing so as it may help prevent customers and competitors from abusing your website. The terms of use can also limit your legal liability as an online business owner.


Terms & conditions

Terms and conditions (T&Cs) are very important for online stores where customers are able to purchase goods, services or downloadable content.  These will form the basis of the contract between you and your customers.  Without having these in place, your customers may have additional rights under consumer law.  Your terms and conditions should cover, for example:

  • Payment terms
  • When the goods/services/content will be delivered
  • How/if/when the customer can cancel
  • What happens if things go wrong

According to this article, clearly specified terms and conditions promote transparency and prevent any possible misunderstandings. A T&Cs agreement will also allow you to prohibit specific illegal activities or provide solutions if any problems arise.


How can I create a privacy policy?

If you wish to incorporate a privacy policy on your website, it is advisable to seek assistance from an expert or lawyer as they will be able to help you design one that is suitable for your requirements. Usually, you will need a privacy policy agreement that can be customized to your products and services. You will generally require the following details from users:

  • First and last name
  • Email address
  • Contact or phone number
  • Address – residential or business

You may also request information about how they will pay for your products and services.

Your privacy policy should:

  • Include any information that needs disclosure as required by privacy laws in your state, country or region.
  • Ensure that the website is honest and provides an accurate description of the type of personal data you collect and use.
  • Incorporate the word ‘privacy’ in the agreement’s title, including the links you provide.

How to write website terms of use

Consider the information on your website and how best to protect this.  Do your customers have the ability to create an account?  Can they add content to your site through blogs, for example?  If so, think about including a clause about what you consider to be acceptable use of the site and what would happen if they breach this.

Consider the intellectual property on your site as well – having a clearly written clause will help you enforce this, if you find anyone has copied your content.


How to write your T&Cs

Although there are various online templates available, it is much better to consult a legal expert or lawyer when drafting your terms and conditions. Using templates or copying T&Cs from another company is not recommended. First, such provisions may not suit your particular business or merchandise. Second, some of the conditions may even damage your company, especially if you don’t understand them.

When considering what to include, you should try answering the following questions:

  • Who are your customers – are they businesses or consumers?
  • What is the process of selling your products and services?
  • How do you provide quotes to your customers?
  • How do you send or deliver your products and services?
  • What are your obligations to your customers?
  • Can your customers cancel their orders, and if so how?
  • How can customers send payments?
  • What happens if something goes wrong?
  • How do you deal with demanding customers?
  • What are the most common complaints from customers?
  • What are the worst-case scenarios for your business?

You should also write the T&Cs in plain English as your customers must be able to clearly understand your policies. If they are just full of legal jargon, people may claim that they don’t understand your contract.


Keep the documents separate

If your website has T&Cs, terms of use and a privacy policy, make sure they are on different pages. This will avoid any possible confusion. However, the two protocols can cross-reference one another.

Crucially, your T&Cs must be clearly stated at the point the customer places an order – ideally by way of a tick box and a link to the terms and conditions before they can proceed to make payment.  Otherwise, it’s likely they won’t form part of the contract between you, which renders them pointless.



Online stores need to incorporate a privacy policy, website terms of use and terms and conditions. While the former is a legal requirement in most countries, terms of use and T&Cs are not. However, it will be in your best interests to include all three. You should regard T&Cs as a tool that can help protect both your customers and your business. Remember, whatever you decide to include on your website, it is always advisable to seek legal advice first.