Regulate your e-shop with 3 essential documents

Regulate your e-shop with 3 essential documents

Do you want to set up your online shop, but are unsure about the documents required on your site to comply with the law? Do you already have an e-shop but aren't sure if it is properly regulated? Don't worry; this article should help explain things!

First, you need to be aware that your site must include the following 3 documents as a minimum:

  • general terms and conditions of sale and/or the provision of services
  • general terms and conditions of use for the website
  • a personal data protection and cookie management charter

Why general terms and conditions of sale? And/or provision of services?

When the shop you want to set up online consists of selling products, we talk about general terms and conditions of sale.

When this shop consists of providing services, we talk about general conditions for the provision of services.

However, this distinction is made for reasons of legal clarity rather than to give them particular power. It is perfectly acceptable to talk about, in general, "general terms and conditions of sale".

This has no effect on the terms or the general conditions clauses.

The purpose of the general terms and conditions is to inform the customer (business or individual) before any sale and/or any service provision of the terms and conditions relating to the latter.

For example, they give the customer information on price and payment conditions for products or services, delivery terms, guarantees relative to the products delivered, etc.

You should understand that these general terms and conditions are really a contract, in the legal sense of the term, between the online customer and the online trader. Therefore, it is essential to include them on the website and to communicate them to your customer before any transaction. For example, this can be done by sending the hyperlink to general terms and conditions in the order confirmation. The online customer must accept them by ticking a box next to "I agree to the general terms and conditions" before confirming any order.

General terms and conditions of use for the website... what are they?

We are now no longer talking about terms and conditions of sale or provision of services governing the contractual relationship between the customer and the trader. We are now referring exclusively to the website.

The web user will access your website, browse your site, find information there and may, ultimately, order products and/or services from you. Access to the website, its structure, its content, etc., has consequences for the web user and for you.

The general terms and conditions of use for the website are, just like the general conditions of sale, a contract within the legal sense of the term between the visitor and the website's manager setting out the conditions for accessing and using the website.

For example, they attract the visitor's attention to the intellectual property attached to the texts, logos and images represented. They can also make the user aware of the issue of viruses or the confidentiality of access methods (username and password).

It is a good idea to include these general terms and conditions on the website and guarantee their permanent availability.

Finally, an essential document... A personal data protection and cookie management charter

Personal data protection.... A long history!

Europe has used legislation on personal data processing for a long time. Based on legislative evolutions, it is increasingly necessary to inform users of the collection and use of their personal data. This quickly became mandatory.

The information obligation has now been enhanced!

Most websites collect and process personal information from their visitors (surname, first name, email address, etc.). This processing meets very strict legal provisions and requires visitors to be provided with clear and precise information (on the type of data collected, the purpose of the processing, etc.).

From 24 May 2016, a new European regulation entered into force within the European Union. It will be directly applicable within member states from 25 May 2018. From then, there will be a two-year transition period to allow authorities and companies to adapt to the regulation's new requirements.

Therefore, it is essential to have a charter on the protection of personal data and cookie management.

This charter is generally presented in the form of a declaration. Its aim is to inform the website's visitor of the following points:

  • the type of data which will be collected via the website;
  • the way in which the data will be collected (through the person's registration on the website or through the person's participation in a competition, for example)
  • the reasons why this data is collected (for the purposes of billing management, direct marketing, customer listing, supplier listing, etc.);
  • the recipients of the data with the agreement of the individuals;
  • the rights of the people from whom data is collected: access to their data, the right to a copy, the right to request a correction, the right to object to its processing, the right to its deletion (the right to be forgotten), the right to "data portability", etc.

Clear information on cookies

A "cookie " is a data or text file which a website's server temporarily or permanently saves on the visitor's equipment (computer, tablet, smartphone, etc.) through their browser.

These files collect information about the visitor such as their language preferences, for example.

The best idea is to inform the website's visitors about the use of these cookies via the charter.

The following information must be provided:

  • the type of cookie the website uses (functionality, performance, tracking cookie, etc.);
  • the cookie conservation period;
  • third parties likely to save cookies on visitors' equipment (Internet access providers, for example);
  • methods for deleting, blocking and/or managing cookies, etc.;

In conclusion, although an online presence as a trader may seem essential today, it is also important to consider matters of legal compliance. So, don't forget to provide these three documents and update them regularly.

Don't hesitate to look at what your competitors are doing and take inspiration from their legal framework, without copying it of course!

There are some websites that can help you with this. As an example, there is (FR) where you can find general terms and conditions of sale, general terms of use of a website and a charter on the protection of personal data and cookie management.

Finally, you can always have your documents checked by legal professionals if you require strict validation of the document relative to the commercial activity you want to (or already) perform online.

Frédéric Dechamps & Caroline Lambilot
Lawyers with "lex4u"
Chief Document Officer at (legal documents online)

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