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Why you need to make your terms and conditions fair

‘Terms and conditions apply...’ Or do they? We explain why you should check whether your small print is fit for purpose.

When was the last time you updated the terms and conditions that you give to customers?

Which? Trusted Traders staff have seen enough terms of business to wallpaper the office with several times over. This has shown us that some businesses are using outdated terms which could breach current legislation.

The Consumer Rights Act, which came into effect in 2015, now sets a general test of fairness for contracts and terms issued to consumers. This means clauses that might have been acceptable in the past may no longer be appropriate.

The problems with terms and conditions templates

The costs of getting terms drafted by a lawyer might be off-putting for some traders, as it can be expensive.

But while templates found online or supplied at low cost may seem like a good alternative, they won’t be tailored to fit your trade or the way you work.

Some businesses we’ve spoken to appear to have ‘borrowed’ terms from another trader on the web and adapted them.

The problem with this solution is that most of the time those terms were ‘borrowed’ from somewhere else and were wrong to start with.

Man reading terms and conditions on a tablet

Examples of unfair clauses include:

  • ‘All sums are due upon completion and no deductions or set-off in the event of a dispute shall be allowed.’  This denies the consumer the opportunity to hold payments back if there is a genuine dispute about work quality or faulty products.
  • ‘We are not responsible for work carried out by sub contractors and we are not liable for any damages caused by them.’  You are responsible for all work undertaken through the contract you have agreed with the customer.
  • ‘Our liability is restricted to the value of the goods or services provided,’ or ‘We are not liable for any consequential losses.’  Customers may be legally entitled to compensation for any financial losses they incur as a result of problems with the work.

Give your customers confidence that they’re buying from a business that they can count on. Become a Which? Trusted trader.

How to update your terms

Our advice is to read through your terms regularly, and ask whether they are weighted against the consumer. Don’t leave in clauses that you wouldn’t agree to yourself.

All Which? Trusted traders must use fair terms and conditions, so please contact us if you have any concerns and need more advice.

You can also find more guidance on unfair terms on the Business Companion website or on the Gov.uk website.

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