Updated: Jul 1, 2019
Terms and conditions (T&Cs) are critical in contracts and fundamental in procurement. These clauses are important specifically because they define what happens, if something should happen. But who really reads them, let alone knows what they say and mean? Believe it or not, some of us actually do! There is standard boilerplate language, governed by statute or corporate policy, and there are T&Cs developed specific to a project engagement, industry or milestone. For example, arbitration clauses are standard in many licensing and/or user agreements that forfeit a user's ability to sue, whereas a customized software program with a specific launch date would be a condition unique to that project.
Recently, The Washington Post published a fun illustration of how familiarizing yourself with terms and conditions in contracts, agreements and the like, can be worthwhile with a story about a woman who won $10,000 for simply reviewing her insurance policy.
Although the Post article is atypical, the reality is that often assumptions are made that could be critical by not familiarizing yourself with the fine print. These T&Cs are important in solicitations, contracts, agreements and any other documents that have binding language, in order to understand what takes precedence, and how, if there is a dispute. The goal is to avoid reaching that point, but the purpose is to have an understanding and protection in place from the beginning in the event that an issue arises. Ideally, the language should protect both parties in a mutually beneficial manner. While average Joe or Jane Citizen may be hard pressed to negotiate with a major industry conglomerate on a licensing agreement to use the newest app, you never know when just gleaning over the language could uncover a $10K surprise.