Use general terms and conditions: not mandatory, but smart

Jaap van der Meulen provides customer service with his company Chatkracht to various customers. He may influence the importance of general terms and conditions. “A large webshop asked for our support during a campaign. A huge task for which I had to hire 25 extra people. The customer’s condition was that we would use their software. ” It went very wrong in the first campaign week. “The software they used did not work. Fortunately, I have included such unforeseen circumstances in my terms and conditions. If something happens that is beyond our control, such as a software error, Chatkracht will still be paid. I must, too. pay the people I have hired. ” Thanks to the clear agreements that Van der Meulen has in black and white, he was able to prevent further problems.

Preparation of terms and conditions

What exactly you include in your business terms depends on the work you perform. Many industry associations have developed their own general terms and conditions. If you are a member, you can start from that. Some industry associations even require members to use the organization’s terms and conditions. Insurance companies sometimes also require that you include certain conditions in your general terms and conditions. For example, if you have business or professional liability insurance.

Almost all general terms and conditions contain provisions on:

  • The offer: is your offer non-binding and how long is it valid?
  • Transport: who pays for transport, insurance and import duties?
  • Delivery time: how long is it and when is it force majeure?
  • Payment: what is the payment period and what about collection costs and interest?
  • Retention of title: The right of ownership is transferred only after payment.
  • Warranty: is there a warranty and if so, what are the conditions?
  • Dispute Resolution: How Do You Handle Disputes?
  • Liability: who is responsible for the damage if you or your customer makes a mistake?

The most important agreements and agreements that are specific to a specific task are stated in the offer or contract. It prevents discussion.

Note: If you do business internationally, you must prepare terms and conditions in the same language as the contract.

compose yourself

You can also draw up general terms and conditions yourself. Many entrepreneurs use the terms and conditions of other companies in their industry as an example. Make sure you never copy the general terms and conditions of others just like that. Apart from the fact that this is not allowed due to copyright, the conditions of other entrepreneurs may contain conditions that do not apply to your work at all. Or maybe important topics are missing.

If you want to be sure that your general terms and conditions are correct, have them prepared or checked by a lawyer.

Unfair conditions

You must not include provisions in your terms and conditions that are unreasonable. Nor does it make sense to do so because such provisions are not valid. What is considered unreasonable can be checked with the ‘blacklist’ in the Civil Code. This is a list of provisions that are prohibited in terms and conditions. The blacklist states, among other things, that it must not be decided that customers can only regret the purchase through the courts. There is also a ‘gray list’. Here you will find borderline cases: These provisions may be unreasonable. An example is that you as an entrepreneur are not liable for damages. Whether a determination of the gray list is unreasonable in your case depends on your situation and business.

The black and gray lists only apply to dealing with consumers, but you must also comply with the law with business customers. The reflex effect sometimes applies to small businesses, such as sole proprietorships, partnerships or small businesses. This is consumer law for businesses. Reflex operation protects small entrepreneurs.

Consumer or business customer

The law protects consumers better than business customers. You can expect business customers to be better informed about their rights and obligations than a consumer. If you are working with both, it is helpful to set up 2 different conditions.

Use of terms and conditions

With good terms and conditions, you can save yourself a lot of hassle and time, but you have a number of obligations:

  • Your terms and conditions must be public.
  • Your customer or business partner must accept your terms and conditions before or during the conclusion of the contract.

If you do not comply with this, the general terms and conditions do not apply. The agreement you have entered into is valid, but you can not invoke your general terms and conditions.

Chamber of Commerce adviser Albert Koerts talks regularly with entrepreneurs who have a conflict with a client. “My first question is always whether the entrepreneur has communicated his general terms and conditions to the customer. Usually the answer is no. So you do not have a leg to stand on. “

Written or oral

You can send terms and conditions to your customer or attach them to the contract or offer. In that case, please refer to the general terms and conditions of the contract or offer so that your customer can not overlook them. Do you often work for the same customer? Then it is enough to send the general terms and conditions with the first order. Please include a text such as: ‘All our transactions are subject to the general terms and conditions made available to you. You can always ask for a new copy. ‘

Annetta Hoekstra-Bootsma has her own practice for children and family coaching, Jongbrein. In addition, she sells parenting-related products in her webshop, such as reward posters. “I always send my general terms and conditions to my customers and ask them to read them thoroughly. Sometimes it happens that the customers do not agree to pay, for example, mileage allowance. Or someone sends an item from the webshop and damaged, so I can not sell it then it is useful to be able to refer to the general terms and conditions that prevent discussion. “

Can you not send your terms of trade before or during the agreement, for example because you enter into them by telephone? Then you must report before the conclusion of the agreement:

  • that you use general terms and conditions;
  • where your customer can see it;
  • that you can send the general terms and conditions for free if the customer so desires.

Online appointment

You must also report in advance that general terms and conditions apply to online contracts. You can do this in several ways:

  • Send them along with your quote or offer.
  • Put them on your website as a PDF. On the product pages, with your offer or in the order form.

Customers must be able to download your terms and conditions. Do you want to make sure that your customer is familiar with your general terms and conditions? Then you can get them to check the box in the ordering process that they accept your terms and conditions.

Exception for service providers

An exception applies to service providers. They can also make their general terms and conditions available by referring to their website. The general terms and conditions must be easy to find on the website in question. It is most useful to refer your customers to the page that contains the general terms and conditions, such as www.naambedrijf.nl/algemenevoorwaarden. According to the law, service providers are parties who “normally carry out economic activities outside paid employment for remuneration”. Examples of service providers are lawyers, travel agents, accountants and IT service providers.

Deposit terms

You can also deposit your general terms and conditions. This means that you give them to the Chamber of Commerce or the right of storage. Your customers and partners can then request the general terms and conditions from a central location. Deposit can be useful, especially if you can not transfer your general terms and conditions to your customers, such as by telephone sales.

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