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Contracts - do you need an actual signature?!

Discussion in 'General Business Forum:' started by uberbaby, Aug 18, 2011.

  1. uberbaby

    uberbaby Member

    Good morning all, pleased to meet you all, I'm new to this forum. I hope I'm posting in the right section, it's not really a studio question but was the only section I could see for more business related stuff.. so if not, apologies! My question is this:

    Do you need to have a contract actually physically signed with the client’s signature?

    Basically I email a PDF proposal to a client, and if they wish to proceed, I get them to email me an official statement for project go ahead. I then either start on the project or wait for a deposit to come in (depending if I’ve asked for one, and this depends on the project).

    So does this actually constitute a legally binding contract as it's all done electronically through email?

    Any thought appreciated, and many thanks in advance!
     
  2. Levi

    Levi Moderator Staff Member

  3. uberbaby

    uberbaby Member

    Hi Levi, many thanks for posting that link - it really helps, it's very clear.
     
  4. wac

    wac Senior Member

    I do something similar by email, its very informal but better than nothing. There forms of binding e-sigs out there for the larger operation.
     
  5. MichaelKR

    MichaelKR Junior Member

    Hey Uberbaby,

    We met at the Business Link event in the Camden Centre. Small internet eh?

    As for your question, an email confirmation is usually good enough from a convenience point of view, but as SDeveloper mentioned should things go to court it would be hard for you to prove that the email hasn't been altered.

    When we do business we always do a credit check, and should they not pass then we ask for payment up front before any work gets done. There are plenty of people who prey on freelancers and small business owners simply because they know we are desperate for the business. I would never worry about upsetting someone about their financial status. If they can't pay then why bother?

    Good luck :)
     
  6. Levi

    Levi Moderator Staff Member

    I use IMAP email which stores the data in an unaltered format on the email server. It can be accessed easily enough via webmail in court and it would show that there have been no alterations. You can not (easily) alter the incoming or outgoing mail once it's hit the servers.

    Yes you can edit a print out or a forwarded email but if you're accessing the original email this makes it a lot harder to disprove.
     
  7. MichaelKR

    MichaelKR Junior Member

    @ Levi - That;s true but if you're going to go down that road then you're looking at legal fees in the 5 figures range. Is it really worth it?

    If I had the cash I'd fight to the end. I hate people who think they can get away with screwing you over. Problem there is that my wallet isn't that thick.

    Going off on a tangent there a bit. Sorry. I stand by my original point. I'd accept email go aheads on a small scale, but would like signed documents for the big stuff.
     
  8. Levi

    Levi Moderator Staff Member

    you could need the same amount of money in legal fees to chase up a 'written' agreement too if the other person refuses to pay up. Having something on a bit of paper doesn't necessarily mean they'll automatically pay :rolleyes:
     
  9. MichaelKR

    MichaelKR Junior Member

    Can't argue with you there. Been there, done that, had to sell the t shirt to the lawyer :)
     
  10. berry

    berry Active Member

    Here are part of our T&C's that has us covered without a signature. So long as you send an outline T&C with your quote or proposal your fine. If they don't pay then find a really good debt collection agency. Do not go Small Claims Court as it is costly and could drags on for @18 months. A big bloke is also useful.

    By placing an order with Armadillo Creative Limited, you confirm that you are in agreement with and bound by the the agencies standardl terms and cinditions

    Definitions:

    The Client: The company or individual requesting the services of Armadillo Creative Limited.

    Armadillo Creative: Primary designer/site owner & employees or affiliates.

    General

    Armadillo Creative will carry out work only where an agreement is provided either by email, telephone, mail or fax. Armadillo Creative will carry out work only for clients who are 18 years of age or above. An 'order' is deemed to be a written or verbal contract between Armadillo Creative and the client; this includes telephone and email agreements.
     
  11. Thewholehogg

    Thewholehogg Active Member

    The big bloke will be around to see you in the morning Berry....
     
  12. Squiddy

    Squiddy Guest

    As per your initial question, yes it does constitute a legally binding contract as there is a clear case of offer and acceptance.

    The only issue, as has already been raised, would be the chance of implication of altered records. I think generally speaking though you would in most instances be okay with emails - especially if you take Levi's advice and use IMAP for your emails server configuration. I also use IMAP for my emails just in case.

    I think perhaps the best way of winning in a situation which threatens court action would be to avoid going to court in the first place. If the client who's trying to con you is confronted with enough evidence regarding the offer and acceptance (and more importantly specifically what was agreed) then they are unlikely to feel confident enough to pursue it in a court of law.

    If you are worried about lengthy and costly court cases you could always write up a small 'agreement' which clarifies a small number of important pieces of information regarding the project; i.e. between who, what, when, payment methods/time lines etc

    You could also add an arbitration clause to the contract which simply means that any disputes regarding the work carried out by your company/yourself will be subject to an arbitration process which removes the possibility of the matter ending up in court. You would need to look more closely at the different types of arbitration and which would best suit your situation but generally it's a much less formal process which can be carried out by solicitors, barristers or an agreed upon person - or simply just yourselves.
     
  13. berry

    berry Active Member

    what time you coming?
     
  14. Jimlad

    Jimlad Well-Known Member

    He's sending Ron Jeremy...
     

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