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Business contracts – know your rights

As a business owner do you have a process in place to review contractual terms before a contract is signed on behalf of the business?

If not, you or your employees could leave the business liable to expensive and/or unfair terms which might be difficult to exit, or at worse lead to a costly dispute. You could also be paying for goods or services you no longer need at a time when many businesses are feeling the squeeze financially.

It may sound obvious, but the starting point with all agreements is to thoroughly read the contract and the terms and conditions and to raise queries either with the contract provider or your solicitor before you sign.

It is always better to try to negotiate the terms of a contract before you sign anything. A common cause of contract disputes is frequently its length, price rises, quality of service or the ongoing legal obligations placed on the contract provider or recipient. Many business owners also don’t realise that there may be an automatic renewal in place. It’s important to record the start and end dates for contracts and also the dates for when notice needs to be given.

If matters escalate to a dispute, it is important to refer back to the contract to understand what you are legally obliged to do or should be receiving. If you are aware of both your obligations and your rights under the contract this will help to avoid breaching those obligations later on and will help you to exercise those rights if you need to in the future.

Make sure you are aware of how to terminate an agreement before you sign. Check if there is a trial or cooling off period or any break clause which allows you to leave the contract early. Understand whether you need to give notice in writing and if a notice period (typically in writing) is needed to end any contract.

If you do terminate a contract early, then you may be liable for early termination fees and continuance of accrued rights. It is important to know that you can make a clean break from your financial and legal responsibilities.

If you would like contract dispute advice and support, contact our litigation team today.

Jonathan Haines is a Chartered Legal Executive at Gullands Solicitors and can be contacted at T: 01622 689700