A 5-Minute Read on Privacy, Pricing, and Return Policy Compliance

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2021 09 07 1st ecomm store

[5-minute read]

By guest writer, Marlene Bramley

All aboard! Set sail for your first ecommerce store 

You’ve done all your homework. Your business plan is in place, and your products are ready to go online and out the door. However, the ecommerce world is not all plain sailing. Compliance, privacy laws, transparency, and refunds are just some of the challenges you’ll face ahead when navigating the seas of success. 

Let’s start by unpacking some of the compliance requirements that you’ll need to meet on your website as you grow. 

Transparency 

Be it your pricing, shipping, refund, or cancellation policy, these documents need to be transparent, simple, and crystal clear. The more complicated your policies are, the more you open yourself up to problems with ambiguous readings of the terms. Countries have different legal requirements regarding collecting and using data – hopefully your products will travel far and wide, so you need to take the privacy policies of each country you ship to into account. 

Before we get into some of the compliance documents we’re talking about, let’s start with the easy stuff. Some payment providers have minimum requirements for new merchants in terms of documents that need to be displayed on websites. So if you’re going to accept payments on your ecommerce site, which we’re sure you will, you have to ensure that you meet these minimum requirements before you approach them to use their processing services.

Contact details 

The Internet is massive, much like the sea. You can understand that merchants and customers want to know your physical location. It affects various aspects of your ecommerce business, like which compliance laws you abide by, how long shipping and returns will take, and the privacy policy you work under. So you need to provide the following minimum contact details on your site: a listed email address where people can contact you via mail, your listed phone number in Europe where they can reach you, and a physical mailing address. Having two social media accounts (at least) would also help to establish your presence. You also need to provide your company name (listed and trading) to comply. 

Pricing policies 

Your potential customers need to know how your pricing works – what the price or discounted price of the product or service is, if there are shipping costs that need to be added, and if there are any taxes levied. 

Some sites only provide prices after users sign up and log in as members. If you are running one of those sites, that condition should be clearly stated. It is important to know that your contact information, refund, and cancellation policies as well as your privacy policy should be available for members (after login) and non-members. In other words, it needs to be easily accessible for anybody that visits your site, whether they’re part of your membership community or not. 

If you are running a site that accepts donations, you must provide preset as well as custom donation options. That means visitors can donate an amount set by you (preset) or by themselves (custom). 

Mobile payments are growing and you’ll open up huge markets by accepting them. Each mobile provider has its own set of requirements. We suggest that you find out what your mobile provider’s requirements are and make sure you meet them. It also makes sense to include links to their requirements on your site, so that customers can do further reading if they so desire. 

Refunds and cancellations

One of the biggest challenges for ecommerce stores is returns. There are various reasons why customers want to cancel orders or return products. They might have buyer’s remorse – perhaps they didn’t measure the gap in the kitchen before ordering that fridge that’s now standing in the middle of the room looking awkward? The point is that you will come across mind-blowing reasons why people change their minds, and you’ll save yourself a world of headaches and costs if you clearly state when customers can return products, how it works, and what they can expect.

These policies will typically explain how long the customer can have the product before returning it, what condition it must be in upon return, etc. And even if you don’t offer returns, your website needs to state that. The returns policy should also tell customers if there are any costs involved when they return goods, like who pays for the shipping of the item and how long it will take to either receive a replacement or refund. Your customers need to accept your Terms & Conditions, so make sure to provide a tick box to let them do that before completing any transaction. A word of advice: make sure your stock and invoicing system is functioning properly. The chaos that might follow if it’s not is obvious. 

Shipping 

That brings us to how you ship your products, the costs involved, and the various available shipping methods. It must be clear to any person buying a product from your site what the cost of the product is, and what the shipping costs will be. Do you offer overnight or express shipping? International or just domestic? Are there any restrictions based on the country and location, or the product? You also need to give the customer a realistic idea of how long it will take before you can ship. Companies that do dropshipping need to pay particular attention to this because they do not carry any physical stock and rely on third parties to fulfill their orders. 

Privacy 

There’s been tremendous noise all over the world about privacy, data protection, and consumer rights. If you distribute in the EU, you have to abide by GDPR requirements. Apple users abide by different policies and so do users in the UK, for example. It might feel as if you need a law degree to figure out what’s what. Don’t freak out. There are many companies like Aosphere and NetApp that publish updated global compliance regulations. They also provide downloadable privacy templates adapted to various territories that you can use as they are, saving you time and effort. 

Don’t despair. If you’re prepared, you can tackle any compliance requirements that payment providers require, merchants have, and clients deserve to have access to. Once you have all your compliance documents in place you can focus on other areas that need your attention. Trust us, there will be many. 

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