Why you need robust Terms & Conditions
Every business should have a set of written terms and conditions upon which its business is conducted. These will set out how and when the contract is formed, when monies become due and all the specifics of the supply of goods and/or services. If a business contracts with consumers, this is all the more important because of the rafts of legislation in place to protect consumers. Further considerations such as cooling off periods and website policies will also come into play when transacting online.
Businesses will also want to ensure that they are trading on their own terms and conditions and that all of those terms are incorporated into the contract. The “small print” is especially subject to stringent rules when it comes to excluding liability towards consumers.
Even where businesses have written terms and conditions, these might be cut and paste from someone else’s website, they might therefore be out of date, designed for a different sales process or simply not up to the job. Sadly, this often only comes to light after a dispute arises.
What happens if there are no written terms and conditions?
The fall back position will almost inevitably be the Sale of Goods Act 1979, the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982, together with the Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977 and various consumer protection regulations. Without a comprehensive set of terms of its own, a business may find itself at the mercy of a complaint or, worse still, a claim for monies pursued by formal means.
You may find yourself drawn into arguments about:
• Method and dates for payment – crucial for any business
• How late payment or non-payment are handled
• Delivery dates and when ownership of the goods is transferred or project/service completion dates
• Your inability to complete your part of the agreement through no fault of your own
• How complaints are handled
• Changes in how you want or need to work
All this will waste management time, potentially incur legal fees and possibly ruin a good reputation. This can be avoided with a simple and clear set of terms and conditions and a little education about when and how to incorporate these into the transaction.