Guide to Laws for Stores, Shops, and Retail Businesses in the U.S.

This is part of our general Guide to Laws for Business Owners and Entrepreneurs.

For California-based retailers, see our Guide to Laws for Retail Business in California.

What rights do consumers have?

See our Guide to Consumer Rights

What are the laws for E-Commerce?

See our Guide to Laws about E-Commerce.

Do I need to collect sales tax?

In most states, sales tax is applicable on most items. However, this requirement varies significantly between states and localities. See our Guide to Business Taxes.

Am I required to allow customers to return items?

No. But whatever your return policy, you must clearly notify your customers of it before their purchase. Your policies create contracts with the customers, so be sure to understand contract law.

Am I allowed to block certain people from entering my store?

Generally, yes, as long as you are not illegally discriminating against anyone. See our Guide to Civil Rights.

Am I allowed to detain a customer if I suspect they stole something?

Generally, yes, but this varies by state. This is known as the “shopkeeper’s privilege.” In most states, a shop owner (or their employee such as a security guard) has the right to stop a customer from leaving in order to investigate as to whether they stole something. As with the citizen’s arrest, you may also be able to arrest and hold the person if you reasonably believe they did commit the crime. But again, this varies by state, so check state laws.


Guide to Laws for Business Owners and Entrepreneurs

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