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The importance of T&Cs for bridal boutique owners

BridalBuyer.com’s legal contributor Barbara Jamieson emphasises the importance of having robust Terms and Conditions and highlights what should be covered to help protect your business.

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Well spring has almost sprung and, with it, some hopefully good news regarding the wedding industry and the world in general.

Whether it’s been proven by COVID-19, or you’ve had to deal with other unfortunate circumstances with customers over the past few years, the importance of having solid, protective terms and conditions that apply to purchases from your bridal boutique cannot be overstated.

You probably all know that you should have a contract. Heck, most of you probably have one. Here are some of the types of contracts I often see that can be problematic for business owners:

  • Drafted by a law firm, go on for 20 pages and full of legal jargon
  • Copied from another bridal boutique, and not tailored to your specific business or client base
  • Written by you or someone in your team, potentially not legally enforceable and could contain some big holes in terms of your protection

I know that many small business owners run a mile from lawyers. Why wouldn’t you – we all speak in legal jargon and charge a fortune, right? However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some lawyers out there who understand your business and the kind of contract your client base actually appreciates. I like to think I am one of them, and these are the types of lawyers you should go to for help in this area.

I believe that your contract should set the tone for your business. It should sound like you have written it. A customer shouldn’t speak to you on the phone and then have an entirely different experience when signing your terms and conditions. It’s all about providing a seamless experience to the customer.

It also doesn’t need to be very long to be effective - often 1-2 pages will do it. That can be all you need to ensure your business is fully protected, whilst giving your customer the reassurance that they are buying from a professional company that takes their obligations seriously.

What should your terms and conditions contain?

Here are some initial thoughts:

  • What you are selling (very specifically, so there is no room for doubt)
  • What price you are selling items for (and how that price might be changed if needed)
  • Consumer protections – are they entitled to a refund? If so, when, and how do they get a refund? What happens if the item is faulty?
  • What happens if a customer pays a deposit and then changes their mind, or circumstances change? (I imagine you have all had a lot of these situations to deal with recently)
  • If you are sued for something, how much can you be sued for? Is there a ‘limit on your liability’?
  • Which legal system governs your contract? Having a contract without words like ‘English law applies’ is like reading a book without knowing the language it’s written in. You just don’t know how to read it; it doesn’t make sense.

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When it comes to reviewing and updating your terms and conditions, I’d suggest you do this regularly (and get a lawyer to help). For a lot of businesses, every couple of years should be sufficient, but during times like we find ourselves in right now, more frequent updates might be needed.

Speaking of recent events, here are some specific points you’ll want to ensure are covered in your terms and conditions, to help protect you in unsettling times:

  • Force majeure – you’re not liable if you are delayed in providing the product or service, if something happens that is outside your control
  • Deposits are non-refundable
  • Goods coming from outside the UK might incur tariffs and VAT that you might not be unable to confirm until they arrive in the UK
  • There might be delays in deliveries of goods coming from outside the UK

With terms and conditions, it all comes down to ensuring you are protected in the most extreme circumstances. If things go well in business, it’s hopefully a case of terms and conditions never really being ‘needed’. However, they are a very effective security blanket for you as a business owner. Having robust terms and conditions in place allows you to limit how much you can be sued for (if something goes wrong), carve out when you can’t be sued at all, and ensure that you have something to rely on if customers don’t want to pay.

At Jamieson Law, we pride ourselves on helping small businesses understand their legal obligations and try to make everything that bit less daunting. This includes fixed fee terms and conditions reviews to help business owners feel more secure when contracting with clients.

If you feel like you could benefit from some one-to-one advice on your terms and conditions, or any other legal matter, please take advantage of our free 15-minute legal advice calls. These are not sales calls; just our way of giving back to the business community. You can book a slot here: calendly.com/jamiesonlaw/15min

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