In any business transaction it is crucial that both parties are fully aware of their rights and obligations. Communicating this information verbally is rarely sufficient. A well drafted set of terms and conditions ensures that both parties understand the nature of the transaction and that nobody will be caught unawares.
Terms that have been verbally agreed can be misconstrued, forgotten, surreptitiously altered (the classic, "No - what I actually said was…" scenario), and are less likely to be upheld by a court. Such terms are more likely to be viewed as non-binding representations as opposed to a binding contractual terms.
Clear terms of business are thus very useful when disputes arise. If the terms of a contract are only communicated verbally a dispute will generally be nothing more than one party's word against the other's. Written terms and conditions should clearly set out all relevant details, leaving nothing open to interpretation or doubt if a dispute arises. Disputes will generally be settled quickly, efficiently and (most importantly for all concerned) cheaply.
It is crucial that both parties are fully aware of all relevant terms and conditions in a particular transaction. The party setting out those terms will be, but they must ensure that the party agreeing to be subject to them is as well. Terms and conditions should always be displayed prominently and customers should have them clearly indicated wherever possible.
Terms and Conditions on the Internet
Terms and Conditions are essential in both online and offline transactions. When entering into a contract online, the terms and conditions should form part of the purchasing or ordering process. Ideally, the customer should not be able to proceed without both reading and accepting the terms. Some websites use code to determine whether the user has "scrolled through" the terms, thus making them hard to miss or ignore.
Traders should at the very least require the customer to check a box to indicate that they have read and understood the contractual terms that apply to that transaction. Guidance from the Office of Fair Trading suggests that a message should be placed in close proximity to such a checkbox which emphasises to customers the importance of reading the terms and conditions before accepting them. Most importantly, websites should be designed in such a way that it is impossible to proceed without indicating acceptance.
In addition to requiring acceptance of online terms of business it is advisable to give customers the facility to save and / or print a copy of the terms for future reference.
Standard Terms and Conditions of Business
Simply-docs provides a large number of standard terms of business. These documents are written in such a way that enables them to be applied to a wide variety of goods and services transactions.
Sale of goods terms and conditions are provided for a number of different scenarios ranging from a simple one-off sale of goods to a sale of goods to be used in the manufacture of other goods, including terms for retention of title.
Further variants are available to cater for business and consumer customers. It is important to be aware that, in many cases, the terms of a business to business (or "B2B") transaction will be subtly (and sometimes not-so-subtly) different to those of a business to consumer (or "B2C") transaction, particularly with regard to matters such as liability and indemnity.
Professional and Trade
In this day and age of the much-vilified and feared "cowboy", projecting a professional image and ensuring high standards of customer care are of paramount importance to tradespersons. Not only do the points above regarding clarity and understanding continue to apply here, but the choice of whether or not to hire a particular tradesperson is likely to be influenced by the presence (or absence) of written terms and conditions.
A new set of terms and conditions is now available from Simply-docs, designed specifically for tradespersons, covering a wide variety of popular trades. Each document has been written with simplicity and clarity in mind and is designed to be included in a document such as a quotation or for display on a website.
As with the standard terms and conditions detailed above, each document is available in business to business and business to consumer versions. Both versions contain the same substantive elements with several differences in defined terms, obligations and dispute resolution, making each version more suitable for the target customer.
Despite the prominence of online shopping, commerce at home through doorstep selling remains popular. As with the "cowboy-builder" problem, the image of such traders is generally less than favourable. Fair and balanced terms and conditions will enhance the image of a doorstep trader and lend greater reassurance to the customer.
Doorstep sellers must also comply with the Cancellation of Contracts made in a Consumer's home or place of work etc Regulations 2008. Due to its rather long-winded name, this is normally referred to simply as The Doorstep Selling Regulations. Under the Regulations consumers must be informed of their rights (making written terms and conditions a legal requirement) and must be given a seven day "cooling-off" period during which they may cancel any contract made.
Simply-docs offers a set of terms and conditions designed specifically for traders selling their wares and services on a doorstep basis. Guidance notes on this area are also available.
Events and Hospitality
Events represent big and multi-faceted business. From venue hire and events management to caterers and photographers, the number of separate contracts involved in one function can be considerable.
A new selection of documents is now available to cater for events and the various elements involved. Our standard Event Management Terms and Conditions now reside in a new Events & Hospitality category, along with several new documents including venue hire.
Car Maintenance and Servicing
Notwithstanding the current economic climate, cars and other road vehicles remain as ubiquitous as ever. There are more than 32 million cars on the UK's roads and all of them require servicing, maintenance, repairs and MOTs.
Written terms and conditions of business are as essential for garages and mechanics as any other business. From the customer's perspective, knowing exactly what will and will not be done to their vehicle will be a great comfort. From the mechanic's perspective, there will be no doubt as to what work they are expected to undertake.
Three new sets of Car Repair terms and conditions have been created and will soon be joined by terms and conditions for annual servicing, MOTs, and general maintenance.
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