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Do you know what you are signing?

23 June 2017

Take Care with Contracts

I often get asked to assist customers that have fallen into difficulties in dealing with contracts they have signed with the providers of a variety of products or services in their branches or indeed at home. These can vary from the lease they have signed for their shop right down to a skip they have at the back of their shop. All suppliers these days rightly want to have something in place that guarantees the period of their supply and clearly sets out things like payment terms and what happens in the event of supply issues or disputes over invoices. Most contracts of this type are correctly drawn up and provide both parties with a clear view of their obligations and rights. However, there are occasions when such contracts are not fair and equitable to both parties and are onerous in the rights given to the supplier. Once signed, it can be difficult to exit from such agreements as they are normally drawn by a solicitor and many have been tested in court. The anxiety and stress of dealing with such situations takes its toll as some suppliers take a fairly aggressive approach to defending their position and what has been signed. So what can members do to protect themselves from getting into such contracts in the first place and what things do you need to look out for in the initial dealings with a supplier?

The range of items that can be added into retail stores to help sales is vast. With retail being such an important part of running a post office these days, here is no shortage of reps who want to visit members and show them there latest gadget or gizmo. There are a few things to remember when you are approached about a new product or service. As a general rule, if something seems to be too good to be true then it generally is just that. Be wary of a sales person that says they have the best thing since sliced bread but there is only a limited supply to offer as this is a general guide that he is like to want a commitment pretty quickly. Also be careful of anything they say that encourages you to sign something on the day. Never, ever sign a contract for something that you have only just seen or heard about, no matter how fantastic it might sound Always tell the sales person at the start that you don't intend to make a decision on that day so they know in advance you will not be signing anything. If you feel pressured at all, stop the meeting and ask the rep to leave or return another day but do not allow yourself to be carried along by a slick sales pitch.

If a product or service is of interest to you, insist the rep leaves all of the information behind including a copy of their contract and tell them you need at least a week to think about it. If they will not do this, simply walk away as any reputable business would not withhold this crucial document from you. Use that time to do some research online about the company and product and look particularly for any forums that report complaints about the product or shoddy sales practices. Read the contract through several times and write questions down for later. Always get a third party to read it as well and get their thoughts. Wherever possible, if funds allow, ask a solicitor to have a look at it as well, especially if the product or service is expensive. Only sign a contract once you have taken the above actions and if you are not sure, take more time to decide or simply walk away. Many of the customers I speak to readily admit that they didn’t actually read what they signed, so taking time at the beginning of the process can save a lot of heartache and stress later down the line.

Checklist

  • If something seems to be too good to be true, it generally is
  • Never feel pressurised to sign a contract
  • Never sign a sales contract on the day of a sales visit
  • Ask to see all paperwork on the day, if you are refused, walk away
  • Take at least a week to decide if you want the product or service
  • Have a solicitor or third party review what you are being asked to sign