You may think that setting up an online shop is easy. Sure, you may not need as much capital as a store that operates from a physical premises; all you need is a website. The ease of setting up an online shop has led to the increase in online businesses. However, as any online business owner should know, there are more factors at play in running it successfully. If you’re planning to start an e-Commerce store or if you’ve already set up, here are a few tips to ensure you comply with Australian Consumer Laws.

1. Understand Consumer Guarantees

Although many e-Commerce stores have terms and conditions for the sale of their goods or services, it is important to know that there are certain statutory guarantees that cannot be removed. This includes the requirement that the goods be of a quality that can be used for the intended purpose. For services, the provider needs to be aware that the provision of services is made with due care and skill.

2. Ensure your Exchange and Refund Policy is Compliant

If your exchange and refund policy tries to rid you of your responsibility to guarantee the statutory minimal requirements, your terms and conditions may be considered void. For example, if you sell watches online that cannot show the correct time, and a customer then requests a refund or exchange, you will need to do so or provide for the repair or replacement of the watch. A strictly no refunds policy is also considered unlawful in most circumstances.

3. Word your Sales Terms and Conditions Correctly

The Sales Terms and Conditions that you provide to your customers will be the legal document that will bind you and your customers. As the Sales Terms and Conditions often create a legally binding contract, if the document includes any unfair terms, it could be considered a void contract. An example of this would be if the vendor of the good was able to change the good’s price without informing the consumer before the purchase of the product.

4. Establish an Internal Complaints Management System

As the ACL has introduced wider enforcement powers through the ACCC, it is much easier for unhappy consumers to make complaints and take action against you. This could include fines, substantiation notices or infringement notices. Before it gets to this stage, any e-Commerce business should have a mechanism to handle complaints from their customers internally. An appropriate disputes resolution clause in your Sales Terms and Conditions can help manage any complaints and ensure customers that their concerns are being handled seriously and effectively.

***

e-Commerce stores are popping up online at a faster rate than before, but this also means that government regulatory bodies are shaping up to respond to customer complaints. If you are about to set up an e-Commerce store, our specialist consumer law lawyers can guide you through the regulatory requirements or help you draft your Sales Terms and Conditions. 

Questions? Get in touch on 1300 544 755.

Kristine Biason

Next Steps

If you would like further information on any of the topics mentioned in this article, please get in touch using the form on this page.