On Your Own Terms

On Your Own Terms Image

 

On Your Own Terms

 

Following our little teaser last weekend, we thought it would be useful to jump back a step and take a little look into Terms and Conditions.

It is vitally important – for both yourself and your clients – to have a documented set of Ts & Cs in order that everyone knows what their liabilities are in the event of any issues involving such things as; your work, the weather, accidental damage, payment, cancellation/postponement and quite possibly many other facets of your day-to-day business.

From a legal aspect, as soon as you and your client agree that work is to be completed, you are in an implied contract (whether written or not) and whilst it is generally assumed that the Contractor (you) will set out the terms of that work, it is entirely possible that the Contractee (customer) may claim their own terms, in the event of any issue, if you have not set out and made clear your Terms and Conditions of completing the job. One such instance you may have come across if working commercially is the issue of a Purchase Order.  This can, in some instances, overrule your own T&Cs and gives the customer the ability to set out their own purchasing terms which may not match your own.

 

So, let’s consider what aspects you may want to include in your Terms and Conditions, in order that you can display them clearly on your website for customers to read prior to booking, or send them to your customers prior to starting work. For a basic set of terms, we can divide them into four sections:

 

Terms and conditions for detailers

 

Section 1: General Terms of Work.

 

Here you will need to set out any particular requirements you may have for doing the job in the first place.  For example, you might choose to put a statement like “Prices quoted assume the vehicle is in average condition, with no excess soiling, pet hair or other heavy contamination.  In the event of heavy contamination, pricing will be discussed with the client and may need to be increased or level of service decreased to account.”

This is your opportunity to show your clients what facilities you may need in order to do the work. In some cases “we will require access to a water supply and a domestic 13Amp socket” will be relevant if you are working on a mobile basis. Consider looking at procedures in the event of bad weather meaning you might have to postpone the work as well.

 


Terms for accepting payment

 

     Section 2: Payment.

 

We would strongly suggest that you set out in some detail precisely what your payment terms are. Phrases such as “your vehicle will not be released until payment has been made” are best avoided, as they may come across as overly threatening and technically difficult to enforce without resorting to regulations such as “mechanics lien”. It would also not look good in court if you were seen to be withholding somebody’s £10k vehicle keys as security over payment of a £100 invoice… proportional response and all that.

Instead, consider writing something like “payment is due on completion” or “invoices are to be paid on receipt”.  At the end of the day and as much as it is unlikely to happen, you should always keep in mind that if a dispute does end up in front of a County Court Judge, being specific but also fair will stand you in a better light and ultimately lead to a more favourable decision.  That said, the single time I had to take a client to court, the Judge was incredibly straight forward:

Judge: Mr. X – did the claimant complete the work for you?

Mr. X: Yes, but…

Judge: No buts, he did the job. Pay him!

If only life was always so simple!

 


Cancelled Appointments

 

      Section 3: Cancellation.

 

Unless you are undertaking a large volume of relatively low-value work, it is always recommended that you take a partial deposit in advance, ideally upon booking, to secure the date for example.  This deposit can be stated in your Terms as “non-refundable” or “only refundable under our discretion”, and that normally will give you sufficient leverage with the customer to retain the deposit in order that you are covered for the lost work in the case of a last minute cancellation.  However, bear in mind that a lost deposit may well often result in a lost customer, so weigh up your options carefully and we recommend you think of long term ramifications vs short term losses.

There are some legal requirements involved in this too.  You may only retain a deposit if your customer cancels within a 14-day period of the booking; and even then, you must make every attempt to fill the appointment and return the deposit if you manage to secure an alternative job. other than that, if its in your terms it’s your call.

 


Detailing Complaints terms

 

     Section 4: Complaints.

 

As much as our egos rule, it is foolish to think that we will never experience any customer complaints. Hopefully, any spurious issues will be highlighted during conversations with the client and then noted, accepted and counter-signed on a pre-work inspection document; but we must always take account for people who have genuine complaints, may have misunderstood what they were getting, or are basically just ‘trying it on’.

“Any issues, damage or missed items must be brought to our attention immediately during post-work inspection”

might be the sort of thing you choose to state. As soon as you leave site, or the customer collects their vehicle then you cannot be sure what has happened to it so at the very least a hand-over walk-round should be completed with your customer and also perhaps signed-off on your pre-work inspection. This will then make it very hard for anyone to claim for anything that you have clearly not caused as it will have either been spotted, or you would have pointed it out to them.

At the end of the day though, your Ts&Cs do not need to be written in perfect “LEGALESE” in order to be valid.  On a past website my terms were very conversational and friendly in the way they were written – I didn’t want to put my clients off with paragraph after paragraph of cross-referenced definitions and jargon – just a straightforward setting out of individual’s responsibilities:

 

Whilst my approach to business is one of ease and flexibility, it is still necessary to have some Terms and Conditions in place which are summarised below for all services carried out:

      • Weather – It may be necessary to postpone any booking due to particularly inclement weather.  Where this happens, the booking will be remade at the earliest availability.  Valet-y Details cannot accept any responsibility or liability arising from cancellations due to weather conditions.
      • Cancellations – I endeavour to contact customers prior to their booking to remind them.  In return, I appreciate notice if you need to cancel or postpone a booking.  In the event of a no-show or cancellation within 24-hours of the appointment I reserve the right to charge the full price for the service.  This may be reduced if the service is then re-booked for a later date.
      • Damage or dissatisfaction – Should you be unhappy with the result of any service completed by Valet-y Details, I need to know about it, similarly if you believe that I have caused any damage to your vehicle.  Any such concerns should be raised during the final inspection of your vehicle and in any event within 24-hours of the service being completed.  Valet-y Details is fully insured for both Public Liability and Accidental Damage whilst working on your vehicle.
      • Excessive soiling – I will always endeavour to honour any quoted price, however in instances where there is particularly heavy soiling (pet hair, tar spots, fallout, etc) it may be necessary to spend additional time to ensure your vehicle is left in a condition that meets my high standards.  Should this be required, any additional cost will always be agreed in advance of the work being completed to ensure both parties are happy with the ultimate results.
      • Invoicing and payment – Payment is due on receipt of a Valet-y Details invoice, which will be sent to you as a .pdf on completion of any service.  Bank details are included on the invoice to ease payment.  In all cases, payment is expected to be received within 7-days of the invoice date however should any monies still be outstanding after 14-days Valet-y Details reserves the right to charge additional sums for the chasing and recovery of any debt.

 


 

Terms and conditions aren’t there as small print to slip in get-out clauses for poor work and faulty service. They are there so customers are clear on what you expect from them, what they can expect from you, and to set outwhat you will do to remedy any issues that may arise. Not having them exposes you to all sorts of potential issues both financial and legal, so make them easy to understand, clear and obvious to find – not hidden on a sub menu linked FTP server they have to apply for access to – you’ve nothing to hide for good business practice!

 

This is just one of the business related topics covered in our Career Development courses, which are designed to steer you in the right direction from day one of your career, and give you a viable business model to shape into a success story.

For more information, check out the courses

 

N.B: UK Detailing Academy are not Solicitors.  Any advice herein is to be taken as from our own experience and is what WE would do to help secure our own business. It is up to you, the reader, to research and ensure your own Terms and Conditions are suitable and sufficient for the needs of your own businesses.

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