Create Terms and Conditions for Online Shop: How to Make Your E-Commerce Legal

Tim Fischer 11/30/2023

Here you will learn what the general terms and conditions are and why they are essential for your online shop.

Table of contents
  1. What are General Terms and Conditions?
  2. Are GTC mandatory for online shops?
  3. What do the GTC in the online shop regulate?
  4. GTC at B2C and B2B: The Differences
  5. Are there legal regulations for GTC in online shops?
  6. Invalid GTC: What are the consequences?
  7. Creating GTC for online shop: Which tools are suitable?
  8. Summary: Create GTC that match your business model

"I know and accept the general terms and conditions" - this is probably the most common clause (and lie) in the world of online shopping. Hardly any buyer takes the time to read them, even though they still agree to make the purchase. Nevertheless, eCommerce stores place great importance on the phrasing of their GTC. But what exactly do the GTC contain? Are they obligatory for online shops? And how can you create GTC for your company website? We answer all these questions in this article.

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What are General Terms and Conditions?

The General Terms and Conditions (GTC) are preformulated contractual conditions that a company creates for the use of its services or the purchase of its products. This means that these conditions do not have to be rewritten or negotiated each time a contract is concluded. Companies that use GTC on their website often also refer to these clauses as business conditions or framework agreement.

Are GTC mandatory for online shops?

In contrast to other legal texts, there is basically no obligation to display GTC on a website. However, for eCommerce shops that sell their products to private individuals, the need for GTC arises indirectly from various consumer protection regulations and notification obligations. This is particularly the case when sensitive information is involved and payment data is processed. Such provisions can only be regulated via the general terms and conditions.

What do the GTC in the online shop regulate?

The content of your General Terms and Conditions varies depending on the company and the type of products and services you offer. For online shops, the GTC may contain the following:

Disclaimer: This is a written declaration of your company in which you point out potential damages that could arise from the use of your product or service. It states that your company is not responsible for these damages.

Haftungsausschluss OMR

Source: OMR

Pricing and payment: In this section, you explain everything to do with online shopping and pricing. This includes the prices, the available payment methods, and the consequences of late payment. In the case of instalment payments, this section must also point out that the goods remain your property until the buyer has paid for them in full.

Delivery and returns: Here you need to explain how and when the products or services are delivered or provided. In the case of returns, your GTC must specify under what conditions a return of the goods is possible and how buyers can return them.

Right of withdrawal: For distance sales contracts, the withdrawal period must be at least 14 days. This section must also state how buyers can withdraw from the contract.

Widerrufsrecht Thomann

Source: Thomann

Tip: Don't know how to formulate withdrawal instructions legally? Then you can use this Right of Withdrawal Template for your online shop.

Dispute resolution: This clause provides information on how your company deals with conflicts related to your business conditions.

Intellectual Property: This section covers things like your company name, your logo, and other unique features. It also often includes copyright policies that protect the content of your eCommerce website and generally states that your site does not tolerate copyright infringement.

Geistiges Eigentum_Hubspot

Source: Hubspot

Right to Terminate User Accounts: This section gives you the right to terminate user accounts for various reasons. For your eCommerce site, this can be especially helpful in case certain users behave unlawfully or shop with stolen credit card data.

GTC at B2C and B2B: The Differences

When it comes to creating general terms and conditions for your business, you should pay particular attention to your target audience. While there is more leeway in the B2B sector, you may encounter numerous restrictions in the B2C sector. This is because the law assumes that consumers know little about contract clauses and are therefore particularly in need of protection. The regulations of the various clauses in the B2C sector are laid down in Paragraphs 305 to 310 of the German Civil Code.

The validity of the GTC is regulated by the Civil Code (BGB). For the conditions to be effective, customers must be explicitly informed about the GTC, have the opportunity to accept the GTC and ultimately agree to their validity. On the other hand, the GTC are considered ineffective if:

  • buyers were first informed about the conditions after the contract had already been concluded
  • the GTC posted in the business premises are not legible or not sufficiently visibly displayed
  • customers were not informed about the new GTC when they were updated or changed
  • the GTC on the website were displayed too small and illegible
  • contracts were concluded over the phone without incorporating the GTC
  • in the B2B sector, if both companies insist on completing the transaction even though they have contradictory GTC

In addition, the BGB obliges companies to include the GTC in their contracts. For online shops, you can do this with a clearly visible link on the order page or above the order button. This can then lead to a separate HTML page or a PDF document. You can also use a scroll box. Just make sure the font size is legible and the text stands out from the background. In addition, your GTC should not be longer than two A4 pages and should be written in a clear, understandable language. Your target audience should be able to read and understand them without the use of aids.

Invalid GTC: What are the consequences?

According to the BGB, there are some clauses in the GTC that are considered ineffective. These include deadlines for complaints in contracts with consumers and refunds that only occur in the form of a credit note. Also, disclaimers for intentional breaches of obligation or non-binding delivery times are considered ineffective. Companies that set such conditions can receive warnings from the Federal Court of Justice. These warnings can amount to a five-figure sum, including the costs for the opposing party's lawyer.

Creating GTC for online shop: Which tools are suitable?

There are different ways to create GTC and other legal texts for your online shops. For example, there are free GTC templates online that you can download in exchange for registration. You also have the option to use a generator to create the GTC for your online shop with just a few clicks. However, keep in mind that these GTC templates may not be legally secure or may not fit your business model. To make your online shop legally secure, you should therefore ask a lawyer to review the clauses or to create the GTC for your online shop completely.

Note: Never copy the GTC of your competitors. Not only that they may not fit your business at all. You are also likely to violate third party copyright.

Once you have created your GTC, you can set up a separate page for them in your shop using an eCommerce platform of your choice. The most popular shop systems include:

These platforms not only help you create your online shop. Many of them also offer their own GTC generator, a GTC plugin or a special feature for creating your GTC. If you want to learn more about the individual platforms, you can use the Software Guide for Shop Systems from OMR Reviews.

Summary: Create GTC that match your business model

Creating general terms and conditions for your eCommerce website is essential for the protection of your company and maintaining transparency. To simplify the process and cover all important points, you can use the tools mentioned above, which among other things provide you with templates. In addition, it's important to tailor the GTC to your business model, make them easily accessible and review them regularly.

Tim Fischer
Tim Fischer

Tim ist ein freiberuflicher Journalist / Content Writer, der OMR Reviews in den Bereichen Marketing und Softwares unterstützt. Seit seinem Onlinejournalismus-Studium schreibt er unter anderem für Computer Bild, XING und Wenn er nicht gerade am Texten ist, spielt er auf seiner Stratocaster die Klänge von Hendrix, Frusciante und Gilmour nach.

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