Selling Stuff Online – What’s Fair in Australia?

What is Fair When Selling Stuff Online in Australia?

I am writing this article to help people who will be selling stuff online. This article discusses some options and the amount of time needed to prepare for selling stuff online in Australia.

Over recent years, I have researched and written the office procedures for Australian businesses to sell, ship, and process returns. Writing procedures morphed into helping my clients draft the documents required for selling stuff online. The clients took these draft documents to an Australian lawyer to finalise before the clients opened an online store. I decided to formalise the research and draft writing as a service after working on my 4th project.

DIY Selling Stuff Online

You can take the do-it-yourself approach to online stores. Many stores like Shopify provide the store plus the templates for your Returns Policy, Complaints Policy, and Terms & Conditions. The catch is that these DIY templates are intentionally vague and generalise the policies. In many cases, you need to modify these templates to be specific to:

  • Drop-ship agreements with suppliers to ship directly to your customers
  • Your bank’s credit card or PayPal’s payment processing agreements
  • Your shipping, cargo or AusPost requirements if you are shipping from your facility

DIY Considerations

You can choose from a number of do-it-yourself sources that work with Australian law. What you need to consider before you commit to one of these services:

  • Can you commit 6-10 hours over 2-3 weeks to do reading and DIY writing?
  • If you have a question, how do you get help — and how much does it cost?
  • After you have completed the DIY online store policies, where do you legally post the info?
  • Do you have a checklist of steps for each policy ensuring you meet the requirements?

If you get busy or overwhelmed by the amount of work required, know what your alternative options are.

Fire dancers at the Floating Islands in Seoul, South Korea

DIY Options

The DIY Australian services listed here include services I have not used. This list includes services that my clients have been satisfied with when they have written their own terms and conditions. Be prepared to pick up and put down the templates over 2 to 3 weeks. You will likely spend 6 to 10 hours finding information about your business, your payment system, and your shipper, even though you may be paying for service or using a form.

LegalVision – Australian templates with minimal instructions and a paid service if you get stuck or want the work done for you

LawLive – Australian templates with no explanation. You take the document you drafted to a lawyer of your choosing to get the final legal revisions.

Shopify – Register for an Australian online store and use wizards to generate your policies, and terms & conditions. Be careful! Do not register for the US or other countries because you will get the wrong templates. Take your documents to a lawyer of your choosing before taking the online store live.

Best Full Service Option

I feel the best full-service option is my lawyer, James Irving. He and I spent a year in a coworking space together. He was generous with sharing his knowledge and encouragement with me and my fellow businesses.

James Irving, Perth Lawyer
+61 8 6460 5460

James revised my Terms & Conditions and has worked with me on 3 other clients T&C projects. He’s best because he’s licensed to practice contract law in Western Australia, and he has experience working with online businesses. He’s one of the better options if you have a novel online service (you aren’t a stock-standard online store) or you have high-value items you are selling online.

I like working with James, because he cares about my understanding the legal topics we are working with. He saves me money and educates me in topics by emailing me information and links I can read on my own time about my questions.

About Online Contests

Online contests in Australia are bound by each state’s lotteries and gaming commission. The retail value of the prize and how the prize is awarded (by a judged competition or drawing) change the requirements of your Terms & Conditions. Additionally, online fundraisers versus retail promotion activities require forms and proof of identity. I recommend Connor James’ Permitz Group.

Permitz Group
(02) 8324 7406

His group is knowledgeable in the overlapping requirements when presenting these contests or fundraising on social media (like Facebook or Twitter).

Shauna McGee Kinney at Brighton Beach (Scarborough) Perth - Western Australia

Outsource the Research & Draft

Call me to outsource the research and draft writing for you. I have a flat-rate service for $480 (as of July 2016). The service includes 1 hour of James Irving’s legal time that I have pre-purchase from him.

I cannot give legal advice, so working with a lawyer ensures your online store promises and handles your sales, returns, and complaints within the current boundaries of the Australian law.

James Irving and I happened upon this hybrid solution outsourcing the research & draft Terms & Conditions and Policies this past year. I spend about 6 hours over 2 to 3 weeks with the online store owner to find the details needed to complete the documents. I research and draft text for unique situations, say for an innovative business.

Why don’t we just copy someone else’s Terms & Conditions?

Even if we look at an established Australian company’s Terms & Conditions, we still need to customise the actions to fit how your store operates, your bank, and your shipper. And, James finds many of these documents are out of date with current laws, especially recent changes at the ACCC. Finally, copying text is unethical. Understandably, a lawyer lets us know when the law requires a very exact set of words to be used.

South Perth viewed from Kings Park winter 2016

Time, Money, and Expertise

Weigh these options against your time and expertise. You will gain valuable experience by doing some of the work yourself, but you also increase the risk by doing your own documents. In contrast, you will reduce your risk and free up your time if you hire a reputable, reliable service to complete the legal documents for you.

Balance the time for these legal documents with the time you need. Give yourself a time and budget for the other parts of selling stuff online, like setting up your inventory and bookkeeping systems, preparing your graphics and online catalog, and setting up the marketing and advertising.

Call me for a free estimate – Perth (08) 9467-2663.

I also offer up to 30 minutes of discussion about issues that took up my clients’ time on previous research and drafts. I cannot provide legal advice, but I am happy to point you to easy to read explanations to help you start your documents and chat with your lawyer.