What not to put in the terms of service of an online shop?

We have outlined what to include in the terms of service. The things not to include there might need a sum-up as well. Why? Because it will cost you money. Lots of money. Mucho dinero.

In most European jurisdictions there are severe consequences for including and benefiting from abusive clauses in contracts, terms of service and privacy policies. These generally fall under one of the three categories:

  • Financial compensation: in almost all cases the wrong party is sentenced to indemnify the wronged party as well as to pay a fine as high as millions of euros (certain GSM company in Poland has been fined over 8 million PLN, which is around 2 million EUR for stating in its terms of service that a letter sent is considered to be a letter delivered to the client)
  • Damage to goodwill - various customer rights organizations can list you as an unreliable partner. Court sentences go public as well. Not to mention the stench on the social media.
  • Increased supervision - in case of being reported you will be subjected to a thorough check by the proper authority not only to investigate the information reported but all procedures in operation at various times.

So what to avoid?

Well, the milestone for customer protection in Europe was the DIRECTIVE 93/13/EEC of the European Commission. It's been amended at various points, though.

There are, however, useful and more precise listings of local authorities, among which there are the guidelines for:

In some cases, such as in Germany, you can make an appointment and consult particular clauses with the local branch of the customer rights organizations. Keep your eyes open for workshops and lectures as well. Don't assume the print is small enough.

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