When deciding to sell online, it is important to understand whether the target you are referring to is made up of consumers or professionals. In fact, not only are the sales techniques different but so are the legal terms that regulate this activity. How do you know if your final customer belongs to one type rather than another? Here's what you need to know on the subject.

Difference between consumers and professionals

Understanding the difference between consumer and professional is very important because, according to the type of customer whose needs are met, the legal terms that are valid for one's contracts change. This is why the distinction between these two realities must be clearly evident.

The word consumer means a customer who buys a good or a service for personal use only: for example a person who buys a pair of sneakers for personal use.

The term professional, on the other hand, means someone who buys a good or service for business use: the best example is the accountant who buys a PC for work. Obviously, a professional can also purchase goods or services for a use that goes beyond the professional sphere but in this case he must be considered a simple consumer. As can be seen from this brief explanation, therefore, the difference between these two reference targets is considerable, as are the safeguards that protect the categories of consumers.

How to recognize your target audience

If the area in which the purchase takes place is online, it can be very difficult to understand whether the customer with whom you are interacting is professional or not. A lawyer, for example, could buy chairs for his apartment but the same purchase could also be made for the professional firm, and in this case it would conceal a working intent. How, then, to move in this panorama? A valid help can be that of the indication of the VAT number. Usually, in fact, customers who intend to buy for professional use use this identification code to receive an invoice for the purchase made, so as to be able to download it from taxes. When this indication is not there, then the purchase is probably made as a private consumer. The distinction is fundamental because, from time to time, based on the type of customer that is satisfied, the terms and conditions that must be applied more specifically must be chosen.

Applicable regulations

When we talk about private consumers we refer to the B2C (business to consumer) sales method while in the case of professionals the sale is B2B (business to business): in B2C the rules of the Consumer Code are applied while in the second case they are reference, on the other hand, to the Civil Code. This may seem like a minutia, in reality it is a difference of fundamental importance because the rules that only valid in one or the other case are really different. A first field of application in which the difference is clear is that of the right of withdrawal: this possibility is applicable only if the customer is a consumer, while he is not active with professionals. Many e-commerce, however, ignore this difference and offer full refunds even to those professionals who buy for business use and who, consequently, would not be entitled to it. Even the so-called legal guarantee is a benefit that applies only to consumers and not to professionals and which is governed by Article 128 of the Consumer Code. For professionals, however, to find something similar you must refer to the guarantee governed by the Civil Code.

The difference of the jurisdiction

The forum of jurisdiction, that is the court that has the right to judge a possible dispute between the parties, is another factor that marks the difference between the consumer and the professional. In the first case, in fact, the competent court is that of the city where the customer who claims a wrong resides; in the second, however, the jurisdiction is that of the city where the legal seat of the party bringing the case is located. Furthermore, the choice of the competent court by the consumer is not negotiable but it is a mandatory rule; in the case of professionals there may be exceptions provided, however, they are clearly specified within the so-called vexatious clauses which are another very important element that marks the difference between one category and another. It is therefore essential to understand exactly what these clauses consist of, which can be so binding for the customer, especially the professional one.

What are unfair terms

The vexatious clauses are all those rules that characterize a contract but which mark a great imbalance between the parties, to the advantage of one of the two. As regards these clauses that are contained within a contract stipulated with a consumer, they are null and void because they are not provided for by law and can even cause very high fines (from 5 thousand up to 5 million euros) for e-commerce by the competent Authorities which, in this case, are represented by the AGCM. The unfair clauses, on the other hand, are totally legal in the case of sales to professionals. However, it should be specified that these clauses are possible only if they are accepted by the customer and this must be done in writing within the sales contract that must be signed by the parties. Within the unfair clauses, changes can also be inserted regarding the jurisdiction to be consulted in the event of a dispute between the parties.

What changes for the UK

One of the biggest news that has affected both the target of consumers and that of professionals in the field of purchases through e-commerce is that relating to the exit of Great Britain from the European Union. How can this purely political fact also have an impact on consumers? Absolutely preponderant in reality. The European Community has for some time made available a platform called ODR which is used precisely by end consumers, but also by professionals and companies, to unravel the issues related to any problems for online purchases that end in Europe. Well, starting from 31/12/2020, that is the date of the entry into force of the so-called Brexit, British customers as well as European customers who buy on UK platforms, will no longer be able to use this platform as the Great Brittany is no longer part of the Community. Obviously, all e-commerce companies are required to specify this clause in detail within the terms and conditions of sale referred to above.

AGCM and consumer protection

AGCM is the Authority that for over 30 years has been dealing with being the official guarantor of competition and markets. Obviously this reality is also the one that deals with supervising consumer protection. In fact, its authority also extends to the monitoring of any unfair market practices, the use of unfair clauses, misleading advertising for consumers and many other aspects that collectively fall within the protection of customers. For this reason, the AGCM is a reality with which all companies, and in particular e-commerce, must deal and relate, especially when it comes to terms and conditions of sale. Any irregularity identified by this Authority, in fact, could lead to the suspension of the license as well as heavy administrative fines. It is therefore essential that for the drafting of the terms and conditions of the sale of your e-commerce you always refer to the indications of the AGCM.

A very simple and fast solution, as well as effective of course, to manage this aspect is to use the services offered by Iubenda, a portal specialized in the automatic creation of sales contracts with customizable terms and conditions. There are many advantages that reside in this strategy, since it allows you to create sales contracts quickly and easily, choosing from many different clause options, all in full compliance with the regulations currently in force. Companies, and e-commerce companies in particular, often resort to the help of specialized lawyers to take care of this aspect. This solution, however, in addition to being particularly expensive, also provides for very long manufacturing times. Thanks to Iubenda, on the other hand, e-commerce has complete autonomy in drafting its contracts and can choose, in addition to the clauses, also the language in which the contract must be drawn up. The contracts are pre-set on the work of lawyers specialized in international law and therefore are absolutely in line with the regulations of the European Community. A quick and convenient solution, that of Iubenda , truly within everyone's reach.


Opening an e-commerce can be the turning point you need to boost your business but it is important that everything is in order, especially as regards the guidelines dictated by the AGCM. To this end, a strategy that can help shed some light on sales contracts is linked to understanding whether your target audience, i.e. the audience of consumers, is made up of consumers or professionals. This differentiation, in fact, helps to understand what are the terms and conditions that can be included in the sales contract, as well as to which regulation these operations must pertain. To avoid running into heavy fines, in fact, it is essential to resort to the help of expert lawyers in the sector who can help draft the AGCM-proof conditions of sale. Alternatively, to save time and money, Iubenda represents the best solution as it allows you to customize your sales contract independently, choosing the various options made available by the platform, all absolutely legal and carefully checked.

Author: Loris Modena


For Ind Loris Modena , owner of Arte e Informatica , he began working in the IT sector in 1989 as a system engineer in charge of the maintenance and installation of IT systems. He started programming for the web in 1997 dealing with CGI programming in PERL and then moving on to programming in PHP and JavaScript. In this period he approaches the Open source world and the management of Linux servers.

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