Legal Basics of Running a Merch Shop

Merchandising, merchandising, merchandising. Where the real money is (sometimes) made.

If you’re considering setting up a merch shop for your game studio, however, you want to make sure you’ve got yourself covered from a legal perspective.

Privacy Policy

A privacy policy is a must for websites that collect or process any user data. This informs users about the site owner’s privacy practices and what kind of data is collected from users. If collect any data at all, the site owner has to have this on the site – regardless of selling merch. Like if the site owner is gathering email addresses or names from customers, it needs to let them know that it is collecting this information and how it may be used. You can see our own privacy policy here. Ours won’t work for other sites, though. Odds are, neither will any other you pull off the internet. The most important thing for the privacy policy to do is accurately describe the data practices of the particular site, which vary from site to site.

Some site owners insist they are not collecting user data. Or that they “only collect emails for a mailing list.” But, after digging, it turns out they have tools like Google Analytics or use a pixel tracker from Facebook and actually do some persistent ID based advertising. This is all important information that must be disclosed.

Terms and Conditions

For any online store or website, express terms and conditions are highly recommended. This outlines what the rules and guidelines are for when a user makes an account with the site. Terms and conditions can also spell out when the site owners can terminate an account, limit a site owner’s liability for the actions of other users, disclaim various liabilities, limit remedies or provide rules for dispute resolution.

This is similar to but still different from the contracts you might establish for a game studio or software company.

Billing & Return Policies

Critical for a merch section or any e-commerce store are billing and return policies.

A billing policy may include things such as the methods of payment accepted, how billing disputes are handled, fees that might be applied to orders, and how to cancel an account. Best practice would also be to include information about how financial information is actually collected and processed (which might be done by reference to the privacy policy). If using a third party payment processor like Stripe or PayPal, that should be disclosed both here and in the privacy policy.

A refund and return policy, on the other hand, typically includes things like how many days a customer has to return a product. It will usually spell out how to notify the seller that they want to return it, how they might receive a refund (do they get their cash back or do they get a replacement product/credit with the store?), who pays for shipping when a product is returned, etc. Sellers may also need to include sections on digital purchases if you offer those and if you offer refunds for them at all.

The simpler the better when it comes to store policies. Where using a stock e-commerce solution, like Shopify for example, this can be a pretty streamlined set of documents.

Here are some examples of online stores and their refund policies/terms of sale (presented without comment, criticism or endorsement – these are just examples):

If you’d like help setting up your own contracts for a merch shop, please contact us.