Contracts are legally binding documents between two or more parties to do or not do certain things. Your contracts with various parties will contain what you can and cannot do in certain situations that may arise.
Any agreement that you make with clients or customers must be subject to your business’ terms and conditions. Such an agreement should set out your payment terms, what you expect of the client and what you will provide in return. These should be given in written form and must be acknowledged by the client or customer in the form of their name, date and signature. Don’t forget your quote, direct debit and invoice must all have consistent terms and conditions.
Furthermore, you must understand and know these terms and conditions very well, so as to know what action needs to be taken if any issues ever arise, for example, the customer has not paid, you are unable to deliver an order because you have no stock left, or a customer complains about faulty goods.
Your terms and conditions may need to include the following:
- Payment terms – cash and credit, deposit, progress payments, interest on late payment, solicitor’s costs for collection
- Price variations
- Provision of information from the customer
- Collection or delivery
- Risk in relation to collection or delivery
- Title and ownership of the product
- Ownership of intellectual property
- Australian consumer rights and guarantees – relevant Australian Consumer Law under the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Cth)
- Your business’ liability must not be open ended it must be limited
- Dispute resolution
- Amendment or alteration of the terms
- Breach or default of the contract particularly if a customer becomes insolvent.
Your terms and conditions may also need to be altered depending on the size, nature, complexity and risk profile of the order or purchase. As a small business managing contracts you therefore need to apply judgment about the contract development and management practices that are appropriate to their particular situation.
Lawyers can help you develop a strong set of terms and conditions for your business to use in a variety of situations and will help you in any complex situations that may arise with customers. They can also help ensure that you are complying with relevant consumer laws by helping you write and understand how and when to enforce your customer terms and conditions.
Mary-Ann Seebeck, Gold Advisory Lawyers, mother of three, draws on two decades of experience as a successful solicitor, accountant and small business owner (she co-managed a 500-cow dairy farm). The personable problem solver and big-picture thinker has worked in the legal departments of blue-chip corporate companies such as Shell, Target, Wesfarmers and TAC. Her legal firm Gold Advisory offers powerhouse Gold Lawyer for a Day solutions to small and medium-size businesses.
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