Provision of Services Regulations 2009

December 2009

Customers need information from you. They have ways of making you talk. This sounds serious and it is; but not as severe as the title may suggest. The Provision of Services Regulations 2009, which come into force on the 28th December 2009, address a broad range of factors ranging from the provision of information to customers to the authorisation of certain traders within the UK and throughout the European Economic Area (EEA).

The focus of this information is on UK businesses and the information they are required to provide to their customers.

For many if not most businesses, the requirements of the Regulations in this area will not come as much of a shock. Many already meet or even exceed the majority of the requirements. The information required by the Regulations is often provided as a matter of course on websites, in sales literature, quotations, terms and conditions and similar publications.

Compliance Made Simple

To make compliance with the Regulations as simple as possible, Simply-docs has devised a standard Business Information Form which, when completed, will provide the required information about your business to your customers. Elements not included in the form will be found elsewhere in the form of your standard terms and conditions, estimates and quotations. The form is designed to be included with any estimates or quotations given to customers. Two variants have been prepared - one for sole traders and partnerships; the other for companies and LLPs.

In addition to the Business Information Form itself, a Requested Information Form is available. This sheet is designed to provide the additional "on request" information set out above.

Both the Business Information Form and the Requested Information Form have been designed for use as an attachment to standard terms and conditions of business or a contract. In either case, it is important to note that customers must be made aware of the information contained in these forms in advance of entering into any contract.

Simply-docs has prepared a large number of new sets of terms and conditions of business.

Does this apply to me?

The Regulations apply to any business which provides a service. The term "service" should be given a generous interpretation. Clearly, the definition will encompass obvious clear-cut services such as consultancy, building, rental, events management, catering, logistics, training, entertainment and many others. Less clear, for example, are those businesses that sell goods. On the one hand, goods are being sold to customers in exchange for remuneration. On the other hand, such sales will often be accompanied by some form of ancillary service such as customer advice or after-sales service. A similar argument can be made for manufacturing.

Businesses that reside in this grey area should carefully consider whether they could be defined as service providers or not. In any case it is preferable to err on the side of caution, particularly given that there is no information required by the Regulations which would be undesirable to reveal.

There are certain businesses to whom the Regulations do not apply. These include:
- Financial services, insurance and investment advisors;
- Transport services - air, road and rail (this exemption does not extent to car hire businesses or driving instructors);
- Temporary work agencies;
- Betting shops and casinos;
- Audiovisual services such as cinemas and broadcasters;
- Healthcare services (both public and private) and other state social services;
- Private security services.

If your business does not fit into any of these excluded categories, read on to find out precisely what information you must provide and how to provide it. It is important to note that not all of the required information below will apply to your business.

Information which must be provided

Business must provide the following information without any prompt from the customer:
- Business name;
- Business type (i.e. sole trader, partnership, limited company etc.);
- Address (including any official address such as the registered office of a company);
- Contact details (phone, mobile, fax, email etc.);
- VAT details (where relevant);
- Trade registration, including the register's name and your registration number (where relevant);
- Authorisation scheme details (where relevant);
- Professional registration, including the name of the professional body and your title (where relevant);
- Terms and conditions of business;
- Contractual terms relating to governing law and jurisdiction (included in all Simply-docs documents);
- Details of any after-sales guarantee that you provide (that is not already imposed by law);
- The price of your services (where pre-determined or otherwise fixed);
- Details of the service you are providing (where it is not already apparent from the context);
- Details of any professional liability insurance or other guarantee that you may be required to hold (where relevant);
- Details of how to access detailed information relating to any applicable dispute resolution which may apply under a code of conduct or membership of a trade association;
- Contact details specifically related to the handling of complaints and details of any relevant complaints procedure.

Information which must be provided on request

Additional information must be provided but only when requested by a customer:
- The method that you use to calculate your prices (if your prices are not pre-determined);
- A reference to the professional rules applicable in your EEA state of establishment and how to access them (if you carry on a regulated profession);
- Information on other activities carried out by your business which are directly linked to the services in question and measures taken to avoid any conflicts of interest (where relevant);
- Details of how to access any codes of conduct to which you may be subject (including website addresses and the language of the code).

Providing the required information to your customers

The Regulations set out several ways in which traders can convey this information to their customers. It can be supplied on your own initiative; more vaguely, it can be made easily accessible at the place where the service is provided (or the contract concluded); it can be made accessible electronically (i.e. by providing customers with a website address for a page containing all such information); or it can be included in documents supplied to the customer which set out a description of your services.

When to provide the information

There is no fixed time period set out in the Regulations. Businesses are merely required to give customers sufficient time to take the information in, consider it, and make an informed decision. The more time a customer can be given, therefore, the better. It is thus advisable to provide the customer with the information along with an "opening" document such as an estimate or initial quotation.

The contents of this Newsletter are for reference purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. Independent legal advice should be sought in relation to any specific legal matter.

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