Commercial contracts, made less complex
We have years of experience in the preparation, negotiation and drafting of contracts for many different types of business.
We take the time to get to know you and how your business operates before we advise you on all the documentation you need to have in place to give you the protection you need.
We appreciate that you don’t want to waste time and money on going to court so it’s vital that you get the right documents in place at the right time – and we’re here to help you do just that.
Why do I need a commercial contract?
Contracts are vital to business, and necessary from all levels – from the conceptual ideas to the end product or service and everything between. Contract law is increasingly regulated by statute and European law. The average business is now left with a myriad of confusing and contradictory rules determining how, and to what extent, contracts should be enforceable.
When is a contract not enforceable?
Aside from lacking the key elements above, special circumstances such as fraud, illegal contracts and contracts obtained by means of duress, or if one of the parties does not have capacity because of their age or health, will render contracts void and unenforceable. Contracts can be affected by mistake and misrepresentation in that if a party enters into a contract under the influence of a mistake of fact or law, or due to a misrepresentation, the contract may be subsequently rescinded (annulled) even if the contract would otherwise be enforceable.
How can I change the terms of my contract?
Contracts are an agreement. They can be altered, renewed or replaced at any time by a new agreement between the same parties. In some circumstances, the law implies changes based on uncontested conduct of the parties over a period of time. There are various ways in which terms can be incorporated into contracts however it is not possible to incorporate additional terms after the offer has been accepted without the agreement of the other party. A common mistake is where companies include printed terms and conditions on their invoices.
What is a consumer contract?
The traditional English approach to contracts has been severely curtailed in the area of consumer contracts due to the influence of the European Union. Commencing with the Consumer Credit Act 1974 with the addition of the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999, the position in respect of consumer contracts is almost the opposite to commercial contracts. Courts are taking an increasingly consumer biased approach and will interfere in almost any contract which has resulted in unfair liability on the consumer. Key areas to watch out for include:
If you are offering any products on credit, it is essential that all consumer credit laws are complied
The regime under the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contract Regulations 1999 is weighted heavily in favour of the consumer. There are detailed guidelines as to what is, and is not, an unfair term and any unfair terms are deemed void. Special care should be taken when contracts are made on your standard terms of business to ensure that you do not fall foul of these regulations.
The ‘cooling off period’ is a concept with which English businesses have had to become increasingly familiar. Consumer credit agreements and agreements affected by the Distance Selling Regulations carry prescribed cooling off periods in most circumstances. This allows the consumer to cancel the contract without incurring any liability for a statutory period – usually 7 days after it is signed.
Although a jurisdiction clause is advisable in a commercial contract, it is unlikely that this will help you in a consumer contract. The primary jurisdictional rule is that if you are suing a consumer, you bring the claim to them in the country of their residence. This can be altered by express agreement, however in practice such an agreement is unlikely.
Do I need to be careful about any specific areas of commercial contracts?
There are specific types of contract which can present specific difficulties and complexities. Areas which have specific regulation include contracts of employment Consumer Credit Act contracts, e-commerce contracts, commercial agency contracts and contracts relating to interests in land.
Do I need to review my contracts?
There is no doubt that businesses have to deal with contracts. It is also necessary for businesses to try, as far as possible, to trade on their own terms and conditions which they understand. Businesses should not assume that their standard terms and conditions will be appropriate for all contracts for the indefinite future. They should be reviewed and updated at regular intervals, particularly when new consumer legislation comes into force. If notice of a dispute comes your way, you should seek specific legal advice prior to taking any steps. Beginning to construct your own defence may well be counter-productive.
What is the likely future of contract law?
The Government is proposing to redraft the statutes to consolidate UCTA and the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contract Regulations 1999. It is not possible for the application of the Regulations to be limited without European intervention as these are based on European Law. It is highly likely that the protection enjoyed by consumers will continue and the protection enjoyed by businesses will be extended at least in part to match.