My business is solely home based and communication is almost 100% electronic until delivery/collection; I find the posting of cake contracts for hand signing a faff but hugely appreciate their importance of course.
Is it acceptable instead to simply email a ‘terms and conditions’ style attachment and state that payment of a deposit both secures their date and indicates agreement to these conditions, or must they physically sign a piece of paper and return it to me?
I do have an electronic delivery note which they sign using an Ipad (other tablet devices are available) but I feel they need time to read their contract, if they want to, and a ‘here sign this’ moment isn’t very fair.
Tell me if I’m just being lazy- I can take it!!
Your government has no doubt developed rules for electronic contracts, you might want to see what they say online (here it's called the consumer affairs branch). That determines the ultimate validity should there be a dispute.
I like the idea of giving 48 hours to read a contract before signing it. Here, the proof of mailing by a tracked postal delivery counts as the contract date if the customer emails you the tracking number. If time is very short, you might recommend that the customer use a similar service.
Your "terms and conditions" might include a clear statement such as "Your consent is explicit at the point when your payment of the deposit clears my bank." In future when your business is booming, you can add "The first cleared payment for a date secures that date. Prompt payment is recommended".
Your terms and conditions really need to spell out the way that you will handle issues like stopped payments (see yesterday's thread about that). I think those are more likely to happen.
ACharleston has become a large destination wedding location so some of my brides are out I town. I use a PDF I my contracts & prefer they scan & email, fax, or mail. If for some reason they can't (especially for revised contracts) I request they send an email stating they have read & agree etc. I also request they state the phrase "this serves as my electronic signature."
Be sure to check your state for legal requirements.
Thank you both very much, you helped me direct my research a little better!
From a couple of case studies (linked below) it does seem that an emailed agreement to terms will stand as a contract, I guess it's just a little more hassle than producing a signed paper if you're ever in contest.
I'm curious Irene about your point on stopped payments, it hasn't happened to me but currently I would contest any stopped/withdrawn payment with paypal/gocardless providing them with the contract agreement and a signed delivery note, would a line in the contract help do you think? something like "withdrawn payment cancels your booking, payments withdrawn after receipt of goods will be contested and may result in no future bookings being accepted..."
I usually send my order forms so that they can sign and return them to me with the deposit.
Occasionally, for quite last minute orders, I send a PDF of the form (so they can't amend anything!) and say "Please check through all the details and confirm that they are correct or advise of any amendments".
That way, I get them to say either "yes it's fine" or "no, can we change xyz" (it's never been the latter, but if that happened, I'd just re-send once amended and then ask them once again to confirm the details".
I'm not actually 100% sure how I stand with that but I figure if it ever went to a small claims court, that would be pretty good evidence.
Having had a very quick look at your links, I think that they're saying a 'conversation' via email doesn't constitute a contract.
However, actually sending an order form and then getting the customer to confirm the details are all correct, I think (in my totally non-expert opinion) is a bit different.
What the links are saying are that the full terms and conditions weren't outlined.
However, if you were to attach an order form stating exactly what you are providing, at what cost and - for example - deposits are non-refundable, and payment due dates, then I believe you ARE setting out terms and conditions.
Just my two penneth worth.
Thanks Suzanne, I agree entirely; I plan to send my usual contract as a PDF list of 'terms and conditions' as well as description, cost, delivery time etc etc, and ask for an aggreement email, a link to pay their deposit will then be sent, ie, they can't pay a deposit and secure their date without first agreeing to the contract.
I'm fairly sure now that this is sufficient.
The recent issues with stopped payments have occurred with the last payment (most frequently the cheque has been stopped, more rarely insufficient funds to cover cheque or e-transfer delayed or credit card denied).
So if the deposit bounces, yes that's a cancellation. Your phrase on that part is clear.
But if you accept the final payment on the day of the event, sooner or later a noncash payment will fail. So you clarify when the final payment is to be made before delivery. You might use the phrase "no cleared final payment means no delivery". Get them to initial right next to that condition so you have proof that they saw it.
A signed contract is an explicit promise to pay on stated dates--there is no need to say anything about contesting non-payments. And you definitely don't want to say anything about refusing future orders...you do that if non-payers ever try, by saying that you cannot accept the booking for their date. But in my experience, people who commit such fraud never try twice with the same vendor. It was done to me once...
I think that perhaps banking is slighting different in the UK and US?
Once someone has put money into your bank account, they cannot just claim it back.
Obviously, if they pay by credit card or Paypal, they can make a complaint to the credit card company or Paypal. But once a cheque has cleared, that's it!!! Same if they make a direct payment into your bank.
I raised the issue of cheques because banks in Canada are allowed to hold them for up to 5 business days. In the interim, a stop payment order may be issued and will be enforced. Cheque clearing is similar in the US although the hold time may be different. The stop payment orders reported on Cake Central were issued on Saturdays when the clearing process would have started on Monday.
With electronic transfers the timeframe is different--unless the customer has a bad record at (for example) PayPal. In that case, a large payment may well be delayed by PayPal until the merchant calls to confirm that the goods were delivered. You the vendor cannot know about this bad credit with PayPal--but you can insist on the final payment a few days before the delivery.
In any case the policy of CLEARED payment is a general statement.
And you folks in the UK are about to get a taste of Canadian style banking regulation, eh? Well Mark Carney stood up to the silly buggers in our government that wanted to totally deregulate our bank system--he's got the right stuff.
AIf you check ukbusiness forums they have a few threads on this subject. I send contracts as PDF via email unless the sign at consultation. In the T&C's it stated that a deposit is confirmation and acceptance of the terms and conditions or something along those lines. All the bank details necessary for a deposit are on the order form as well.
I've only had one bride use paypal but I don't like it. Bank transfers are much more convenient and easier for everyone, although they have a different system in the US and a litigation culture.