We’ve highlighted one particular issue here, and gone into it in detail – we’ve had several emails looking for advice on the same topic of Terms & Conditions. Our legal eagle Suzanne Lurie of Affinity Resolutions comes up with some clear guidelines
“Is there actually a format or template for Terms and Conditions? Also, at what point should I ask a bride to read and sign them? I am very new to the business – in fact, I haven’t actually opened my shop yet! – and as a result, I am nervous about formalities…”
First of all, congratulations for thinking about the formalities of setting up a business at the outset. Many startup businesses overlook requirements such as T&Cs, but when problems arise there is no legal framework to fall back on.
T&Cs set out your terms and conditions of trading. So while your question relates to your customer – the bride – it is vital to also consider the T&Cs you may be bound by with, say, your suppliers, which may affect your business if they are too onerous.
You have asked about a template. I know how tempting it can be to click onto a DIY website, fill in your details and have a set of T&Cs to download, or to copy those of another business. This may be a cheaper option, but the risk, certainly when it comes to copying someone else’s, is that they may have been copied, too.
It is important that your T&Cs are personal to your business. They should be in clear language to avoid misunderstanding or misinterpretation.
There are no specific requirements about what should be included, but it is well worth your while to consider headings, such as the following:
This is where you will say if you want to take a deposit, when the balance should be paid and what happens if payment is not received. You should include fixed time limits for payments and perhaps consider an interest charge for late payments, which could be decided at your discretion.
This should cover how long it will take you to make/supply the dress and accessories. Consider here what will happen if you are let down by a supplier. You may want to include a sentence to cover that to protect yourself.
Include here how many fittings you are happy to include in the price of the dress.
Specify here how you will deal with complaints. You may, for example, only want to deal with a complaint if it is in writing. It may be sensible to include a clause that lets your customers know that after a fixed period of time after their big day you will not deal with a complaint.
Change of mind/non collection
You should specify here what happens if a customer decides to change their mind or does not collect the dress.
There is no legal requirement for your customer to sign the T&Cs. The important legal point is to ensure that they are brought to the attention of your customer at the earliest opportunity.
This is essential, otherwise the T&Cs will not be binding. You could ask the customer to sign your T&Cs in your shop, but for this to be binding, you would have to give the customer time to read the document before they signed.
My advice would be to make sure you always refer to your T&Cs in any email or other correspondence and if possible attach them to your letters and emails. Have a copy on display in your shop and perhaps in the fitting room too, and if you have a website, then make sure there is a copy on your website.
Some people also print a copy on the back of their invoice. If in any doubt, seek professional advice. It will be money well spent.
Need advice? Contact Suzanne on: