Legal Article - Business Law

Car Service: Terms and Conditions

If the terms of the agreement are vague or if a material part of the agreement is missing then it becomes a voidable contract.

So if some work on a car is discussed and the details are set out on an Order Form, but the price is left blank, don't expect sympathy from the Court if you try and argue a particular price has been set.

Contracts are frequently broken down to find an Offer and an Acceptance. If you are repairing a car, you might be saying 'This will cost you £400'.

The customer may say 'Yes' in which case the contract can go ahead. If the customer says 'Yes I would like it but I will only give you £350 to do the work' then this is seen as a counter offer.

You are then in the position of accepting it or otherwise. If you don't give an answer to the offer then there is no contract.

The detail of a contract is set down in terms. Terms can be 'express', that is specifically agreed for that contract. Such terms are the 'small print' on legal documents or verbally agreed between the two parties.

Other terms are referred to as 'implied'. This means that such terms are always part of such a contract whether they are written down, said or not.

Common examples are the implied terms laid down in the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982.

These require every contract for the provision of a service to have the implied terms that the person must provide the service:

- With reasonable care and skill

The law takes the view that you are the professional and therefore if a customer entrusts you to carry out some work then they are entitled to a reasonable level of skill and care. There is overlap here with 'negligence' which we will come upon later.

It is fairly self-explanatory and is the equivalent of satisfactory quality under the Sale of Goods Act for sellers of goods. Basically whatever service you are providing e.g. recovering a car, carrying out a service or repair, diagnosing a fault, putting the car through a valet etc, etc then the work must be of a reasonably high standard.

The word reasonable is important however. So if you can repair a component instead of fitting a new one, or if you fit a pattern part and not from the car manufacturer then this is acceptable (providing, of course, you have not specifically agreed to do otherwise).

- Within a reasonable time

Again this is fairly self-explanatory. It is clearly not acceptable to take in work and just 'leave it round the back' until there isn't much else to do. If a particular time is quoted then this is part of the contract. If not, then the time is what is reasonable.

If a part has to be ordered from abroad then this is still reasonable. If you order the wrong part and have to reorder then this is not. Immediate response is generally not expected but if you take on too much work then it is unreasonable.

You MUST operate a time management scheme to prevent overbooking. Failure to do so may render you liable to a criminal offence.

- At a reasonable price

Generally competition tends to iron out prices. So if you are a franchise garage then your rates may be different from an independent garage.

An independent garage will charge a different amount from an 'evening and weekend' arrangement. Clearly if the job requires merely new brake pads it is not reasonable to do the discs as well, if they are not ready to be changed.

 

Published: 10 Mar 2011

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