Statistics on how many people actually read terms and conditions tend to vary and are dependent on the nature of the individual as a consumer or a business. Consumers tend to be less likely to read any terms whilst they shop and order things online or in person. Even still, there is without a doubt more businesses skim reading terms (at best!) than reading them in detail.
Whilst as consumers we do have consumer law there to protect us, that doesn’t mean you won’t end up paying more than you initially thought, for example:
- Being in a longer contract than you realised
- Losing out on money due to not being able to cancel or amend bookings
- Having to pay to return unwanted goods despite the 14-day cooling off period, and also not getting refunded for original postage.
As a business, the stakes are even higher. By accepting terms and conditions without reading them or understanding their impact you run the risk of being taken by surprise with fees and charges. As such, it’s vital that you understand everything before agreeing to your suppliers’ terms. Whilst legislation exists to protect businesses from unfair contract terms, you won’t be able to challenge a clause that’s clearly written into a contract because you haven’t read it or “didn’t know it was there,” – your ignorance is no excuse.
A couple of years ago, a business approached us retrospectively wanting advice on how to get released from their telecoms contract. They had originally agreed an 8-year rolling contract, and if the length of that term wasn’t bad enough, it transpired that when they came to give notice correctly at the end of the 8-year term the additional headsets they ordered as their business grew meant that the 8-year term started again and therefore they remained in that contract for another 6 years. They had been costed big time by not reading the original terms at the point of sale, and, additionally, had also received an invoice of £650 for challenging the terms and the supplier instructing legals.
More recently, I have reviewed contracts for supplier clients, in which there has been a total of 18 clauses in order to just explain how they would be paid. So many businesses have the attitude of “I just sign the contract, we can’t change it so what’s the point in reading it?” – this could not be more wrong.
Whilst yes, you may have little to no room to negotiate the terms within the contract, sometimes it may just be the need to clarify a point of which could be more favourable to you. Take the below clause for example, of which describes that, in the absence of putting an agreed timescale to ascertain valid invoices, the individual could be paid within 30 days of whenever.
11.2. The Contract Price shall be paid in arrears upon submission of valid invoices subject to satisfactory performance. Each invoice shall have sufficient information of Services provided to allow the Company to verify the accuracy of the invoice. Payment of the Contract Price shall be made within 30 days of ascertaining that the invoice is valid and undisputed.
We managed to get a timescale implemented into the contract with just a question.
Even if you do have no intention of asking questions, simply negotiating the contract will tell you:
🗒 What level of insurance is required
🗒 What is expected of you that goes above the actual services e.g. you may need to provide a list of all subcontractors you have working on the job, attend progress meetings, provide reports for such, and what you must do if the services change
🗒 How to get paid as described above – there are often set rules around getting paid, and any invoices must be in the correct format. Failure to follow such instructions runs the risk of being paid late.
🗒 What is considered a default, and whether you get the chance to remedy it. Something you may consider to be minor may be important under the terms of the contract so it’s imperative you are aware.
This is just a snippet of what can be pulled from a contract, and in the small chance that you can’t negotiate some of the more onerous terms, it is always worthwhile reading it in order to better understand it.
If you need any more help with a legal contract, speak to BEB. We can write a bespoke business contract to suit your exact needs.
BEB are contract law specialists based in Northampton. We draft bespoke and well written business contracts on a fixed price basis. Our legal packages offer flexibility depending on the number of documents you require. Whether you require a business to consumer or business to business contract we are here to help!
We are contract drafting and contract review providers. We can advise and negotiate all contracts to protect you from unfair terms and conditions as well as support you with any ongoing contractual issues – we would be like your very own comprehensive in-house legal department.
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