Template Terms and Conditions
- AuthorMatt Rowley
If you are reading this, there is a good chance that you are searching for a template set of terms and conditions to use for your fledgling business. The reluctance to spend money on legal advice that is not immediately going to bring you a return and help you grow is completely understandable.
Terms and Conditions are like an insurance policy. You do not value them until you need them but then they help to ensure that you will get paid and be compensated for late payment and that, if you don’t get things quite right, your liability and losses can be limited.
In time, when your financial position allows, you should take proper advice to ensure that the terms and conditions you are using in your business actually protect you the way that you think they do and the way that they should.
The temptation to ‘crib’ a competitor’s terms and conditions or amending a standard template is all too common for new businesses. Doing so comes with a number of pitfalls.
First of all, by using a template or someone else’s terms, you do not know how they apply to your business or where those terms came from. Every business is unique! Businesses differ in terms of the cash flow pressures and terms for payment, the types of goods or services they provide are differentiated from their competitors and their customer or client demographics differ all changing the risks faced by each business.
As such, don’t assume that the set of terms and conditions that you are using will necessarily fit your business needs or contain all of the terms that you should or must have. If you’re going to run the risk of not getting proper advice be aware that it is a risk and don’t fool yourself into thinking that a google search and some word and paragraph changes will replace a good study of your business needs by a qualified and experienced solicitor. If your ‘cribbed’ T&Cs let you down, you don’t have anyone else to blame. If a regulated lawyer gives you negligent advice, they (and therefore you) have a policy of insurance to claim against.
In particular, different professions and different industries have strict requirements about the information that must be included in your terms and conditions, as do sales to consumers over the internet or at a distance. Without proper advice are you able to confirm whether everything is covered in the template examples that you have? Check the requirements and guidance of your trade or professional bodies.
Secondly, if you’re using another businesses terms and conditions, you risk that business finding out and claiming a breach of copyright. On several occasions I have come across a business’ terms and conditions that are virtually identical to those that I drafted for a competitor. I’ve also come across terms and conditions that haven’t been amended properly and still contain the other business’ name in them. Not a good reflection on the professionalism of your business. So, if you’re going to run the risk, make sure you make those terms and conditions as much your own as possible in content and style. A breach of copyright claim is likely to be a costly nuisance at best that will result in you having to go through an exercise of differentiation in the end anyway.
Nothing can beat proper considered and backed up advice from someone who understands and is interested in your business. So see what options are available to you to get such advice. Contacts or trade bodies in your sector may be able to give some guidance and insight and may even be able to provide you with a template that you can feel more comfortable has been properly considered and is in date.
Always consider several examples of terms and conditions from businesses similar to yours to see how the styles differ and what content may be missing or may not be relevant to your business.
Look for organisations, who, like Harrowells, are keen to support small and new businesses and may be able to offer levels of advice or charges that will allow you to have confidence in your terms and conditions from the outset.
You pay for what you get but, with terms and conditions, you might not realise what you have until you need them the most.
Our articles are intended for general information purposes only and are not a substitute for professional advice tailored to your specific circumstances. We are always very happy to discuss any plans, issues or concerns you may have and to clarify how we might be able to help. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.