Ecommerce Websites Need A Privacy Policy

Here’s a quick tip: If you have an ecommerce website, you need a Privacy Policy page. You probably also need a ‘Terms of Service’ page too. Here’s why.

It’s The Law (At Least in California)

Love it or hate it, California often leads the USA in regulating business activity. Any commercial website that collects personal information from consumers (like an email address) is required under California law to “post a statement of your privacy policy in a conspicuous location on your Web site.”

There’s also the fact that Google requires a privacy policy for most of it’s users:

And if you advertise on Bing, Facebook, etc., you’ll probably need a privacy policy to make them happy too.

Basically, every commercial website needs a privacy policy for about half a dozen reasons.

It’s Good Business

The other reason to have a privacy policy is that – for some consumers – privacy is a huge concern. According to one source, 45% of households had decided not to buy online out of concern over the safety of their personal information. 45%!

That’s an astonishingly high number, and while it may overstate the situation, privacy policies are a best practice for the following reasons:

  1. Most consumers are concerned about identify theft, at least on some level. A privacy policy gives these consumers some reassurance.
  2. A stated privacy policy can help consumers address their concerns with you directly, rather than having them contact the FTC or their state Attorney General.
  3. A simple to read privacy policy has been shown to increase ecommerce site conversion rates (albeit slightly).

OK – Is There A Boilerplate Privacy Policy I Can Use?

To recap, having a privacy policy is going to keep your site in compliance with the law (and with 3rd parties you do business with), potentially save you some legal hassles, and probably increase revenue. The question is, what should your privacy policy say?

With the understanding that:

  • A privacy policy is a legal document and
  • Neither Spork Marketing (nor any of the links below) are offering legal advice

Check out these sample privacy policies. They should be a very good starting point. Indeed, many businesses use the samples without consulting an attorney.

Again, we’re not qualified to offer legal advice, but we think Shopify’s free privacy policy is A-OK for most ecommerce websites.

Did Someone Say Terms of Service?

While you’re adding a privacy policy page to your website, consider adding a terms of service page too. A good terms of service page will:

  • Disclaim your liability for inaccuracies, errors, and omissions
  • Explain that your company doesn’t owe anyone anything for completing a transaction on a product that’s been discontinued
  • Explain that part pricing and shipping fees are subject to change at any time, and that you will give the consumer the option to cancel their transaction if they don’t like your changes to their order after the fact
  • Explain that your company can cancel any order at any time for any reason
  • Explain that you do not do business with anyone intending to commit a crime, that you will prosecute instances of fraud, etc.
  • That your company is not liable for links that point to your site, nor for the content at sites you may link to

etc. Again, Shopify has a free Terms of Service generator that we like very much.

*NOTE: We never mention the Better Business Bureau without mentioning this: http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/business-bureau-best-ratings-money-buy/story?id=12123843. Before you pay to join the BBB, ask yourself if that money could be put to better use.

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