Recent legislation means businesses that provide services have to make information about themselves available.
Iain Robinson of Slee Blackwell’s Commercial team unpicks the latest bit of red tape.
Most businesses selling services (rather than goods) are affected by the Provision of Services Regulations 2009, which came into force on 1 January 2010.
This legislation requires these businesses to make certain information available to everybody, make further information available to all their clients before working for them, and give even more to clients on request:
- Information such as a complaints and enquiries address has to be available to anyone, regardless of whether they are clients or not.
- The information that clients must have available before they engage the business includes trade body affiliation, VAT number and professional liability insurance details.
- Businesses have to give their clients such information as price calculation methods and conflict avoidance measures on request.
- There are further rules on complaint handling and non-discrimination. The only businesses outside the regulations are financial services, telecommunications, transport, temporary work agencies, healthcare, audiovisual, gambling, social services, public sector businesses, private security, notaries and bailiffs.
The new laws can be enforced by the Office of Fair Trading and some other statutory bodies. They can, if they think a business is breaking the rules, seek a court order requiring the business to change its ways. A business in default of that could be in contempt of court. As the law stands a business may not be able to enforce terms and conditions if a court considers them unfair. This new law does not change that, but if the OFT successfully takes enforcement action against certain practices, a court would be more likely to find those practices unfair. That could lead to contracts being unenforceable. You can comply with many of the regulations, and build stronger contracts for your business, by having a well-drafted set of terms and conditions for your clients. A compliance page on your website can also help.