Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has published its findings from research into businesses’ behaviours regarding unfair terms in contracts with consumers. The research shows that 54% of the UK businesses surveyed do not fully understand the rules on unfair terms, which directly impacts how they treat their customers. In response, the CMA has launched a series of guides to inform businesses on what makes a term unfair.

The guidance assists businesses with understanding what makes terms and notices unfair, what risks they can face from using unfair wording and top tips on how to ensure terms and notices are fair and clear.

There are 3 levels of guidance – short (2 pages), expanded (28 pages) and full (144 pages), so that different users can access what is most appropriate to their needs. It includes an at-a-glance flowchart explaining how to apply the law on unfair contract terms.

The guidance identifies key things that businesses should do to ensure that they communicate clearly with consumers and avoid disputes arising from unfair terms. Alongside specific advice such as avoiding using legal jargon in contracts, the guide urges businesses to deal ‘openly and fairly’ with consumers and not to use terms you ‘would not like to sign up to yourself’.

If there is poor performance and we dispute an invoice, how does this impact on the late payment rights?

Essentially the Late Payment of Commercial Debts (Interest) Act 1998 gives certain rights if invoices are paid late. If an invoice is disputed, they do not stop. To overcome this the non disputed portion of the invoice should be paid in line with the payment terms.

Does a business buying goods and services on line get any cancellation rights as consumers do?

Consumers enjoy cancellation rights by virtue of the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 and, as the name implies these only apply to contracts between businesses and consumers. They do not apply to business to business transactions.

Therefore, unless there are cancellation rights given in the terms and conditions of the agreement, then there is no right of cancellation.

I'm thinking about opening an online shop, what do I need to do to protect my business?

There is a significant investment in trading online so it’s prudent to make efficient sales to maximise the return on investment.

Your terms of business are crucially important. This means they need to be clear, enforceable and don’t leave room for things to come back to bite you.

There are legal requirements including:

  • information you need to put on your website;
  • consumer protection legislation (if you are selling to non-business customers);
  • industry specific requirements; and
  • data protection and privacy considerations.

It is also worth remembering that scrutinising a website is easy for regulators such as:

  • Local Authority Regulatory Services (Environmental Health, Trading Standards and Licensing);
  • The Competition and Markets Authority;
  • The Advertising Standards Authority; and
  • The Information Commissioners Office.

If you need any help then please take a look at our solutions  or get in touch to discuss your requirements.

My web designer makes sure that my website complies with the law, don't they?

It’s really important to remember that the responsibility is with the executives of the business e.g. the owner, partners or directors of a limited company.

It you are investigated by a regulator it really isn’t much of a defence to say “My web designer said it was OK” as the British Pregnancy Advice Service found out to its cost. Read more…

If other people produce or manage your website the buck ultimately stops with you.

Our Website MOT will disclose compliance vulnerabilities.

Our Data Protection MOT will help strengthen your approach to data management.

Are you using your business name correctly?

Sounds an odd question but if you use a “business (or trading) name” then the Companies Act 2006 has some requirements for you to follow, even if you are not a ltd company!

So what is a business name?

It’s a name used by any trader for carrying on business, where:

  • individuals trade under a name which is not their own;
  • partnerships do not use the names of all the partners;
  • a registered company, such as a limited liability partnership or limited company, trades under a name which is different from its registered company name.

What is required?

In essence you must ensure that your customers know who they are trading with. Companies house don’t require the registration of a business name, so don’t make the mistake of letting anyone charge you to register it for you!

Some words are banned from use in a business name and there are restrictions on the use of others.

You will need to give the name of the legal entity (or entities) using it. You will also need to give an address in the UK, at which documents can be served, for each person (or corporation) named, e.g. the registered office address of a limited company.

This information must be shown legibly in any place where you carry on your business and where you deal with customers or suppliers, on business letters, written orders for the supply of goods or services, business emails, invoices and receipts and written demands for the payment of business debts. A company will also need to comply with disclosure requirements in relation to its name and registered office address on business documents and websites.

Failure to comply with the requirements is a criminal offence and in addition you may be unable to enforce your contracts with others.

Is your reputation at risk?

Not sure then please get in touch

Can I apply a CE mark to toys that I am selling?

All new toys that are supplied in the course of a business must be marked with a CE mark (other details also need to be given).

The CE marking on a product is a declaration by the manufacturer of conformity with the law (i.e. amongst other things the CE mark declares that the toy is safe.)

If you are manufacturing the toys and selling them, then you must apply a CE mark. Clearly you must make sure that the product complies with the legal requirements that apply and be able to demonstrate this compliance.

If you are buying toys from a supplier within the EU then you should make sure that they are already CE marked.

If your supplier is outside the EU then you will need to ensure that they comply with the law and then apply the CE mark and your contact details as the importer (into the EU).

 

Southern Entrepreneurs – Training

29 Sep 2016

Wessex House – EASTLEIGH

Selling Legally On-line

The internet is the new high street and e-commerce is a great way of getting products and services to market. This course aims to help you make sure you don’t fall into the legal pitfalls thus reducing the competitive advantage, please note we will not be covering EU VAT rules.

EARLY BOOKER £25 TO 1 SEPTEMBER

Find out more …