It’s always difficult to know if a contract is legally watertight as we all know there’s only one way to test it.  In a court of law which, quite frankly, is the whole purpose of preparing a contract in the first place – to avoid a court of law.

So if you don’t want to go to court to test a contract, what can you do to make sure that it’s legally watertight?

Based on our experience reading these documents everyday (yes, even weekends!) the most common mistakes in contracts are found from those that have quite clearly been copied and pasted straight from a competitors website.  If that’s something that you’ve done or considered, please keep reading!

Although it may seem easier at the time to copy or “adapt” a selection of your competitors terms, unfortunately this is a very short term solution to a long term problem.  And we’re not just saying that as a phoney marketing ploy, it really is.

But why is it a bad idea to copy someone else’s terms?

Well, first and foremost – they don’t belong to you, they belong to your competitor (at least that’s what you think) which straight away puts you at risk of the author of those terms finding out that you’ve copied theirs.  They may not mind this, but most of them do so it’s a lot easier to avoid placing yourself in that position in the first place.

Secondly – how do you know that they are legally reliable?  They may look nice and you may read them and think “Yes, I like and understand these terms and they will look great on my website”.  BUT that doesn’t necessarily mean that they will stand up under scrutiny when put to the test.  After all, the whole point of having terms and conditions is to set out the rules that you can enforce when things go wrong.

Thirdly – The whole point of having a competitor is to challenge them and show them that what you do is better than what they will ever do.  So why use the same terms?  Surely it makes more sense to have your own unique set of terms which clearly makes you a more attractive and professional option for your customers and clients to deal with?

Reviewing your terms

When it comes to reviewing your terms, you should think about how YOU operate and how YOUR customers should operate.  Once you know this, you will need to make sure that the risks for both of you are protected and fairly balanced.

Amongst others, you should consider:

–          The scope of your service

–          The nature of the goods you’re supplying

–          Applicable law, regulations and codes of practice for your industry

–          Payment terms

–          Cancellation and refunds

–          Privacy and sensitive information

–          Lawful disclaimers of liability

In the wise words of John F Kennedy “The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining.”