Small print is a big deal

Article

10 December, 2008

It is always important, but particularly so in this current economic climate, to have a quality set of terms and conditions for your business. Good terms can offer your business protection against unscrupulous traders, slow payers and even businesses that fail during your relationship with them.

Having a set of terms and conditions gives you the opportunity to make it clear exactly what you will do for the customer and in return, what their obligations are to you. The terms can also deal with other important matters, such as:

  • the method and timing of payment;
  • limits to your own liability;
  • contractual rights to claim interest and costs in the event of late payment of invoices;
  • delivery, including where the delivery will be made to, additional charges payable for delivery and responsibility for goods in transit; and
  • how any disputes between the parties will be resolved.

It is also possible to include clauses that give you 'retention of title'. Such a clause can allow you to retain legal ownership of your goods until the customer pays you for them in full. This gives you the opportunity to take back your goods from a non-payer and can be particularly useful in relation to businesses that become insolvent while you are waiting to get paid. If you can't get your money, you can at least have a go at getting your goods back.

One other point to note is that good terms are of no use to you unless they form part of the legal contract with your customers. It is not sufficient to simply print your terms and conditions on the reverse of your invoice if the invoice sent out to the customer after the goods have been delivered. This is too late and won't bind your customer.

Terms and conditions are not just small print that get ignored, they are designed to protect you and to give you something to refer back to if you should have a problem with a customer. Life is hard enough for businesses at the moment why make it harder for your business by not having the terms and conditions in place that might just make your business life that little bit easier?

If you require any advice or assistance please contact one of our Business Law Solicitors.

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