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Posts Tagged ‘terms & conditions’

Clients not paying on time or refusing to pay?

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015

Overdue payments

If so, ask yourself this: Do your clients actually know when they need to pay you or are you assuming they do!

Check through these three easy steps:

1. State your terms BEFORE you provide the goods or services– this may seem obvious but many businesses do not actually tell their customers when they want to be paid! I had a client call me up for help because she was owed money by a customer who was refusing to pay.When I asked her to send me a copy of her Terms of Business, turns out she didn’t have any! She had sent out beautifully coloured proposals setting out her services and the price, but no actual statement of when it was payable or what would happen if they were late paying.

2. Check your invoices– do they clearly set out:

  • Payment terms e.g. ” Payable within 14 days from date of invoice”
  • Your bank account details
  • That interest is chargeable if client is late paying
  • Link back to your Terms of Business?

3. If all else fails, sue! If the amount you are owed is less than £100,000 and you have done everything possible to get it back, you can actually take the client to court yourself online without involving a lawyer.Check out the new Money Claim Online service, offered by HM Courts & Tribunal Service. It costs from as little as £25 for claims up to £300.

If the customer does not pay or defend the case, you get judgment against the customer and can then enforce it. Most customers do not want to have a judgment against their name as it will affect their credit ratings if they want to borrow money, not to mention the overall black mark it creates on all sorts of records.

If you need help with drafting your Terms of Business or would prefer us to handle the claims process, contact us now.

“Much Ado…” but with very little substance!

Monday, April 9th, 2012

As we customarily help small businesses and entrepreneurs draft their contracts and policies in the most concise and comprehensible way possible, Off To See My Lawyer are very surprised to discover that certain large organisations have recently been criticised by Which? for the lengthy and therefore burdensome Terms and Conditions which they expect their customers to read and accept.

Whereas Shakespeare’s longest play “Hamlet” contains 30,066 words, PayPal expect visitors to their website to read and consent to Terms and Conditions reaching 36,275 words.  The length of “Macbeth” (containing 18,110 words) is comparable to Apple’s iTunes’ legal agreements, which contain 19,972 (plus an additional 10,724 for those wanting to use Apple iCloud).  Amazon have also come under scrutiny for expecting customers ordering products via their website to read 5,212 words of Terms and Conditions, and 7,115 words when downloading Kindle books.

Of course, we know that that these companies would have been spared such disapproval from Which? had they sought the advice of  Off To See My Lawyer when drafting their legal agreements!

Good Housekeeping without a feather duster!

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

Assuming you are a star business woman and sign a contract with all of your customers and suppliers, do not leave them languishing in a dusty pile or even simply file them away tidily, thinking “well that’s that then!”

Think of your contracts as recipes or tools for each deal that you sign. They should clearly set out who will do what and when. So you need to record key elements of each contract, so that you do not find yourself in breach or conversely, forgoing rights that you would otherwise be entitled to.

I would start a table with the following key details of each contract:

  • Name of the other party
  • Start  date of contract
  • End date and how much notice is needed to end it. Beware: Some contracts renew automatically if you do nothing! This is where your calendar tools in Outlook can be really useful. Simply enter the longstop date  minus few weeks’ thinking time as a reminder. If, for example, you need to let a supplier know by 30th Nov 2012 whether you want to continue with him or not, enter a reminder for 1st Nov 2012 so that you have time to think about whether you want to continue or not.
  • Key dates/milestone dates e.g. when certain goods or services have to be provided
  • Payment terms e.g.  when you may invoice, when you have to pay for things, agreed rate
  • Special terms  that are key, but which differ from customer to customer e.g. territory, exclusivity, non-competition

Finally, make sure you have back up copies of your contracts e.g. a soft copy and a hard copy or, if you want to save paper, a back up copy of your contracts on a separate hard drive. These can be bought for around £50 and simply plug into your computer. Find the ‘back up’ application on your computer and run it at least once a week. Remember to test that it is actually working!

Help! My masseuse has turned into a man!

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

Not so long ago, my husband gave me a voucher for any treatment I fancied from my favourite salon. Not ever having had one, I boldly booked the “full body massage”. Head to toe treatment with oils and all the trimmings. After all I had been working pretty hard and thought I deserved it. SO with great anticipation I turned up at the salon.

Imagine my horror when the receptionist announced quite casually that there had been a slight change of plan and my massage was now with Mario. I double checked whether she hadn’t meant Maria? No, it was definitely Mario who, I was assured, was excellent and very good with his hands…!

I didn’t have the heart to protest and allowed myself to be led along the dim, candle lit corridor, incense wafting seductively in the air to a cosy little room with more candles, a bed ready laid with fluffy towels for the impending massage. Very matter of fact, I was told to take off all my clothes, slip on the robe and Mario would be along shortly! As I proceeded to do so, I felt like Bridget Jones, fretting about what knickers I was wearing and oh my god, had I shaved my legs..?? I found myself breaking out in a cold sweat and felt anything but relaxed! I duly stripped off, donned the robe and sat almost formally as if for a job interview in a wicker chair in the corner. I fairly jumped out of my skin when Mario knocked at the door and enquired if I was ready? “Ye-yes”, I answered trying to sound ultra-cool about the whole thing and in he came.

Now I have to laugh at my stupidity because he was the perfect gentleman and there was nothing in the slightest bit dodgy. The massage went very well. Putting my legal hat ( or should I say clothes) on, I told myself that this is precisely the sort of thing I provide for in my contracts for service providers –not full body massages- but the right to provide a service in a slightly different way.. This occurs in the clause that describes exactly what service will be provided by when etc. If I am acting for the service provider, this is often deliberately phrased in somewhat fluid terms allowing the service provider a little leeway should any unforeseen circumstances arise. If acting for the customer on the other hand, the service provider is pinned to the wall with the exact detail of the service being provided, along with time lines and miles stones.

Applying this rule to my salon, if I had been acting for them I would have stated that service being provided is a full body massage of one hour. Full stop! If on the other hand I was acting for customers, I would have drafted the contract to state that the service was a full body massage of one hour provided by a qualified female masseuse, with soft hands, short finger nails, no body piercing ….You get the idea! So next time you book an appointment, check the service description!

The Volcanic ash cloud-an example of ‘force majeure’

Friday, April 16th, 2010

Many terms & conditions have a so-called ‘Force Majeure’ clause which most people ignore-usually because it features towards the end of the contract by which time they are seeing double and have lost the will to live!Added to that, we lawyers are reknowned for using bizarre latin phrases and ‘force majeure’ is probably one of them.Well, it isn’t. It is actually French and is often translated into ‘Act of God’. So what does this little clause do? It is rather like the ‘get out of jail free’ card in Monopoly and relieves a party to a contract from its obligations when certain events beyond its control happen. Say you sell exclusive chocolates with cocoa beans imported from South America. You sign up a massive deal with Harrods to supply them with chocolate santas. A storm hits the plantation and you are unable to supply the chocolate santas. Harrods get angry and want to sue you for the lost business, bad customer experience due to empty shelves..This is where you wave the ‘force majeure’clause at them and heave a big sigh of relief!

What is interesting is they type of event people try to lump into the ‘Act of God’ category. Would you accept strikes as a reason for someone to pull out of a contract?What about failing to back up one’s IT systems and they suddenly crash with total loss of data.You could argue that any prudent business would cater for just such an eventuality and that should not relieve the business from its obligations to you.

And now, what about this volcanic dust cloud.Thousands of flights grounded entailing, no doubt,interruption of supplies and personnel.It will be interesting to see if there will be a spate of claims for breach of contract and whether businesses have that all important little clause…

You might want to check your small print too 😉