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What Are My Rights If No Terms Are Agreed?

By: Chris Nickson - Updated: 17 May 2013 | comments*Discuss
 
What Are My Rights If No Terms Are Agreed?

Q.

I have recently been taken to small claims court and lost.

A web development company started to build me a website before the terms and conditions or price was agreed. They finally produced the terms and conditions towards the end of the project and I rejected them and stopped all work with the company.

The judge ruled that because they where carrying out work on my behalf I should settle the invoice in full and because no terms and conditions had been agreed there where no terms or conditions to break and the company was not in breach of anything.

Does this seem fair?

(Mr Rupert Ingram, 28 September 2008)

A.

Sad to say that on the surface it appears that the judge was right, although without knowing all the details and legal implications, it’s impossible to offer a definitive answer.

So Why is the Judge Correct?

It would seem that you agreed to let the company develop and build the site for you, that you gave your consent to begin, which means that – even if it was tacitly – you entered into a contract with them. Therefore, as long as they performed the work in a satisfactory manner and in a reasonable term, using due care and skill, they have the right to be paid for that work.

The correct way to have gone about things would have been to hammer out a price and all the terms and conditions, and have had them in writing before you allowed work to commence, and everything on paper is a signed contract between yourself and the web development company.

That way both parties would have known exactly where they stood.

The judge is correct in saying that where no terms and conditions exist, none can be broken – how can you flout what isn’t there?

Perhaps the most surprising thing is that you hadn’t agreed on a price, since that’s one of the basic foundations of all kinds of business. For instance, you’d very likely get several quotes before having major work done on your home, and you’d have something in writing stating that price, along with a completion date, when payment is due, whether the work is guaranteed and so on – which are essentially the terms and conditions for the work.

Business operates the same way, and the judge obviously believed that you’d agreed to use this company’s services, whether verbally or in writing, and so you became liable for the invoice when they presented it.

Unfortunately, on the face of things it looks as if you have no choice but to chalk this up to experience. However, if there’s more involved that you haven’t stated, then it could be worth another look. That’s probably not what you wanted to hear, but it would seem to be the situation.

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