1. How is a consumer defined?
A consumer is someone who:
is not making a contract in the course of a business;
is contracting with another party that is making a contract in the course of a business; and
is being supplied services of a type ordinarily supplied for private use or consumption.
Sales to consumers are commonly referred to as B2C sales.
2. What are terms and conditions for services?
Terms and conditions for services are the legal terms that apply to the provision of services to customers. Terms and conditions for services are accepted by customers in order to form the basis of the contract between the supplier and that customer. Where services are being provided to consumers, there are special rules under consumer protection laws about what terms and conditions for services should include and how they should be drafted.
3. What do terms and conditions for services for consumers need to include?
Consumer protection laws (the key piece of legislation in the UK is the Consumer Rights Act 2015) set out certain requirements for terms and conditions for services when the customer is a consumer. This includes:
Reasonable care and skill - a consumer has a statutory right for the service to be carried out with reasonable care and skill. There is usually a term in terms and conditions for services that reflects this service standard. Where services are not provided to this standard, the consumer can require the supplier to repeat the service to the proper standard. This repeat of the services must be provided at no cost to the consumer, within a reasonable time and without causing significant inconvenience to the consumer. If it is not possible to repeat the service, the customer can claim a price reduction / refund.
Reasonable time - the service must be carried out within a reasonable time. If the terms and conditions of service specify a date or time for the service to be performed or completed, those time periods will apply. However, where there is no agreement about time, the timescale must be reasonable. What is reasonable will depend on the type of service.
Cooling-off period - for “distance contracts” and “off-premises contracts”, consumers are entitled to a 14-day cooling-off (or cancellation) period where they can change their mind about the purchase of services. This applies to sales made over the internet, the phone and from the consumer’s home i.e. sales that are not made in person at the supplier’s place of business. The right to a cooling-off period comes from the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013. You must provide the consumer with a model cancellation form so that they are able to exercise this right.
Transparent and plain language - contracts must be written in plain language to avoid being misleading and unfair. They should avoid unnecessary legal jargon that would be confusing the individual consumers, and be transparent so that legal terms aren’t hidden away.
No unfair or unbalanced terms - any terms that are deemed to be unfair will be unenforceable in a consumer contract. Some terms will automatically be found to be unfair (known as blacklisted terms) - this includes where you try to avoid your responsibility for death or injury. Other terms might also be found to be unfair, but it will depend on the specific circumstances. This could include terms that weigh the contract significantly in your favour as the supplier e.g. by providing for excessive cancellation charges and automatic loss of all upfront payments, or by creating unbalanced rights, e.g. being able to cancel a contract at any time, but requiring the customer to give 3 months’ notice.
Docue’s terms and conditions for services can be used to meet these requirements.
4. How should I bring standard terms and conditions to consumers' attention?
You need to prominently and transparently bring terms and conditions for services to your customers' attention. They can’t be hidden away in lengthy documentation or on an obscure page of your website - customers should be able to find them easily.
Customers should also be asked to accept (or agree) to the terms and conditions of service. For online terms, this could be done by the customer actively ticking a box confirming that they agree to the terms at the checkout stage. For other standard terms and conditions, they can be incorporated into an order form / proposal document that the customer signs and confirms they agree to.
5. Are terms and conditions for services legally binding?
Yes, but you should have a clear process in place in order to make customers aware of the terms and conditions of service so that they can accept them.
Without a clear acceptance process, a customer could argue that they did not agree to those terms. There is also a risk that you get into a “battle of the forms” situation. “Battle of the forms” is a legal concept where the customer and the supplier both provide a copy of their own terms and conditions, so it is not clear which party’s terms apply to the service provision.
You can make sure that your terms are accepted by customers and properly incorporated into a contract with them by using Docue’s order form template.
Sign up now to use Docue's terms and conditions for services template.
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