Ferry firm case highlights dangers of taking legal shortcuts

10/01/2019

FBCMB has warned against the dangers of cutting corners in preparing your company’s small print in the wake of the Seaborne Freight ferry gaffe.

James Sage, lead partner in the corporate department at FBC Manby Bowdler, says cutting and pasting another company’s terms and conditions – as Seaborne was reported to have done – could land a business in hot water.

Mr Sage said it was vitally important to take proper legal advice so that a bespoke set of terms and conditions which specifically applied to your company could be drawn up.

Seaborne Freight hit the headlines after it was awarded a £13.8 million government contract to provide extra ferry freight services in the event of a no deal Brexit despite not owning a ferry.

It was then claimed it had cut and pasted a food delivery website’s legal terms for its own use, with some paragraphs referring to the delivery of meals and ensuring the company had a correct delivery address.

Mr Sage said all companies should seek legal advice and have their own terms and conditions drawn up professionally.

“Your business is unique and your terms and conditions of trading should be unique too. Legally, it is absolutely vital that they reflect your company’s business, mission and trading ethos.

“It might seem that copying someone else’s terms is an easy solution, but one inappropriate or irrelevant clause can negate the whole agreement.

“The terms you have copied might well be out of date, or fail to take account of recent changes to the law or industry regulations. By failing to take legal advice you could be exposing your whole business to serious risk.

“And if a potential customer views your terms and can tell that they do not directly apply to your business, why would they want to do business with you?”

Mr Sage said that even though the Seaborne Freight terms had now been corrected, it highlighted the importance of seeking professional advice from the outset.

“A good solicitor will help you define your trading conditions in important areas such as what goods and services are to be delivered, conditions of payment, limitation of liability, delivery and termination.”

For more information, please contact James on 01902 392435 or j.sage@fbcmb.co.uk.

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