Do you really need to ask a lawyer to draft the Standard Terms & Conditions for your business?
You could have a go at drafting them yourself, or you could get an off-the-shelf precedent from a quick Google search. The problem with those methods is that you’re likely to stumble into a number of pitfalls, which could expose your business to unnecessary risk.
What about “taking inspiration” (or simply copying) a competitor’s T&Cs? Along with the reasons we’re about to discuss, you’re likely to have the added risk of infringing their copyright.
Here are a few reasons why it is usually a good idea to get your own, professionally drafted T&Cs.
1. Get the right fit
If you buy a second-hand bike helmet, you risk an uncomfortable fit and unknown fallibility. But if you get a tailor-made helmet, made-to-measure and designed for the specific purpose you want to use it for, then you’ll be much more confident that it will protect you if something goes wrong.
The same can be said for your business Terms & Conditions. One of their main functions is to protect your business if anything goes awry (late payments, water damage in transit, etc).
You know the ins and outs of your business and the areas of potential risk. You can work with your lawyer to safeguard against foreseeable issues that you might face in the course of your business and craft terms that fit your operations.
2. Be confident that your terms are enforceable
Unenforceable terms and conditions are as useful as a jelly wall. They might look good, but as soon as they’re challenged by a customer or a supplier, they won’t hold up in a legal battle and they’ll offer you no real protection.
In order to be enforceable, your T&Cs must be fair, and they must be incorporated into your contracts.
Of course, there’s an element of interpretation in what’s “fair”. You might think it’s perfectly reasonable to charge interest at 20% for late payments, but your customer (and a judge) may deem that to be excessively high. As a general rule, interest at 2% – 4% above the base rate is usually acceptable, but that may be subject to change.
Thankfully, lawyers have the most up-to-date knowledge on case law and the ways in which judges have interpreted “fairness”. That means that professionally drafted T&Cs are much more likely to be enforceable, and provide your business with protection.
In order to incorporate your T&Cs, you have to establish that your terms apply to the contract before it is concluded. This can be a simple case of setting out your T&Cs in brochures, quotations, purchase order forms, on your website or on delivery notes.
3. Create good relationships customers and suppliers
Your terms of business can have a positive impact on your relationships with customers and suppliers. By setting out each party’s rights and obligations at the start of the interaction, you’re both clear on what’s expected of you. You operate within clear boundaries, and you understand how your relationship will work. It feels safe, reassuring and comfortable.
Your T&Cs will contribute to your reputation as a business, and demonstrate that you’re professional, transparent and trustworthy. Badly drafted T&Cs unfortunately won’t have the same effect.
4. Don’t trip over any laws inadvertently
Your T&Cs don’t operate in a vacuum. Depending on the nature of your business, you’ll have a specific legal framework and regulatory landscape to comply with.
For example, if you’re exchanging personal data, you’ll need to define who is the controller, and other data peculiarities, in accordance with General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). You may have to consider competition laws, or the impact of Brexit on your cross-border operations.
Finally, don’t forget your own business documentation. Your T&Cs must work in harmony with your other commercial contracts. You don’t want terms in your distribution or supply agreements to contradict your T&Cs.
A lawyer can get it right for you
Standard T&Cs are not straightforward to draft from scratch. Given how integral your terms are to your business operations, it’s worth getting the peace of mind that they’re correct and robust.
A lawyer understands the holistic picture of the legislative framework in which your business operates. So you can trust that your professionally drafted Terms & Conditions don’t fall foul of any of the laws or regulations and that they’ll grant you reliable protection.
If you’d like any help draft your commercial contracts, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 01386 641 928.