New year, new rules?
Have you promised yourself that this year is the year you will finally banish scope creep? Get paid properly for what you do? Stop gambling with your equipment or intellectual property and properly protect it?
Terms and Conditions, T&Cs, Client Engagement Documents, Client Intake Form, Client Waiver… Whatever you call them, this is where you get to set your own rules and January is the perfect time to give your business a legal check-up for the year ahead.
With updated unfair contract laws now in play, reviewing your T&Cs is more crucial than ever. Here’s why:
1. Communicate clearly
A lot of people think that the most important part of the T&Cs is the heavy legal sections and yes, they are important. I do love a juicy disclaimer. But it is often the more simple areas that are forgotten.
What does and doesn’t your price include? How much notice of cancellation is required? At Curium Legal, we use a fresh set of eyes to look at how clients engage with your business to minimise misunderstandings which lead to disputes. There are trends of common disputes that we know to look for.
2. Stay compliant
The law changes all the time, not just in parliament but also in the courts. Make sure your terms align with the latest legal requirements and industry standards. Have you kept up to date with these? The common answer is probably not. And if yours were not reviewed in 2023, I’d say certainly not.
3. Protect your business
Consider what types of risks your business is most prone to and cover them off. If you have items of equipment on other people’s sites, is it protected? If you sell a product that could injure people, do your Terms and Conditions deal with this? If you give advice, do people understand the limitations of that advice? If you give access to your logo or intellectual property, have you set the rules for this?
Make sure you haven’t left your business exposed.
4. Reflect changes in your business
As your business has evolved, your Terms and Conditions should accurately reflect your current offerings and practices. We spent a lot of time updating cancellation policies in 2023.
The cost of living has come to bite, so consumers and organisations are under considerable pressure. This has come out to play where organisations evolve into new spaces but forget to cover off their risk.
Case study | How we helped a client with their T&Cs, saving them thousands of dollars
In 2019, Julia Styles* started a property staging business, getting properties ready for sale. However, in 2020, the Covid restrictions on in person inspections meant that she needed to rapidly transition from staging to styling via online consults. People were spending more time in their homes and wanted them to be beautiful. Once Julia had a signed off design brief, she ordered delivery of furniture and furnishings direct to client’s properties.
Having mainly dealt with real estate agents and styling for sale before, she found direct to client work to be far more difficult with those highly discerning clients. Even after signing off on her designs, she found herself sending furniture and furnishings back to stores when clients didn’t like the size or colour or simply changed their mind. Julia had been paying a lot of return fees over the course of three months but she had been too busy to do anything about it.
When she lost out with a company that wouldn’t take return of a $3500 coffee table, she decided it was time to get her Terms and Conditions sorted. We whipped her client engagement documents into shape and made sure clients understood to choose carefully and that return fees for change of mind were their responsibility.
We help many clients like Julia, but the best business practice is to update or seek advice before you get to that stage.
Have you ever wondered how often your T&Cs need to be updated? Here’s a checklist of how you will know it’s time:
- If they haven’t been reviewed against the unfair contract law that came in on 9 November 2023.
- If you have found yourself doing work for free because your terms weren’t clear enough.
- If you have introduced a new product or service since the last time they were put together.
- If you have had a disagreement with a client about what you are responsible for.
- If you copied yours from someone else and they were never made for you.
- If you can’t find the word indemnify in your document (this started off as a joke but it is incredibly common to delete this section because people don’t know what it means).
- If it’s been two years since they were last reviewed. A lot can happen in the courts in two years!
Think you need some help? Send your T&Cs through by email to firstname.lastname@example.org for a free quote. Start 2024 on the right foot.
*Name changed for privacy