Carefully drafted terms and conditions are vital for just about any business. They protect both business owners and customers by making the terms of business interactions clear.
It’s essential that your terms and conditions are accurate and sufficiently detailed. Any lack of clarity could lead to unhappy customers. It could also result in legal action and erode the rights of your business.
Below we outline some of the information that all businesses – including SMEs – should typically include in their terms and conditions.
Among other stipulations, payment terms should include possible payment methods, when payment is due and, if applicable, your returns or refunds policy. In the case of services, also state whether a deposit is required and when the remaining balance is due.
If your product or workmanship carries any warranties or guarantees, state not only their duration but also any circumstances under which these might be rendered null and voice. For example, misuse of a product might be grounds for voiding a guarantee.
Stipulate the time range within which customers can expect your business to deliver a product or service – two to three days, for example, or four to six weeks. Ensure that the time range you specify is achievable, as opposed to optimistic!
Also note that lead times can be affected by outside influences, such as delays in deliveries from third-party suppliers.
Delivery or shipping policy
If delivery is included for your product, stipulate the terms of this delivery and your liability, if any, in the event of damage or late delivery.
If you use a third-party delivery service, be sure to state that you are no longer liable once the delivery service has taken possession of the goods.
A definition of your service or product
Include a comprehensive description of your product or service. Also describe any limits affecting a service. For example, these may relate to the number of allowed revisions to documents or to limits on accessibility.
Duration or termination of the agreement
If there is a limit on the duration of your services, make this clear. Also define your policy regarding early termination of the agreement by either party.
If a transaction involves collecting any personal information about an individual, ensure you describe what information is to be gathered and for what purpose – and separately, ensure you obtain the individual’s consent.
Content ownership and intellectual property rights
If relevant, protect your company’s intellectual property and other content ownership rights by including a statement of ownership in your terms and conditions as well. This can prevent others from copying your content, designs or even brand.
Tailoring your Ts & Cs to your business
Plenty of templates are available online to help you write terms and conditions. However, don’t simply copy this sort of agreement from another business.
Your terms and conditions must be specific to your company and cover the types of interactions and transactions you can expect while running your business.
It can help to run through potential scenarios with colleagues or friends – bounce around ideas for mitigating issues before they occur. Even a bit of role-playing may help you identify potential issues in your day-to-day interactions with clients.
Ideally, have a lawyer review your terms and conditions, to ensure they’re properly worded and will be legally binding.
Where to display your terms and conditions
Your terms and conditions are legally binding, so it’s important that your clients and customers are fully aware of them and agree to them before any transactions are concluded.
Most companies display their terms and conditions on their websites.
In the case of e-commerce transactions, it’s a good idea to include a compulsory checkbox, for confirming agreement with the terms and conditions. This ensures that customers have either read the terms and conditions or absolve your business of any liability in the event that they have not.
If your business isn’t conducted online or you don’t have a website, terms and conditions can be included with quotes and/or invoices.
What we offer at The Workspace
At The Workspace, we don’t offer any form of legal advice or help with tasks such as drafting business terms and conditions.
However, we do aim to support all the small businesses and entrepreneurs who use our serviced office and coworking spaces, through informative talks, networking events and a range of on-site business services.