In times of trouble, firms default to poring over the contract and its terms and conditions in search for non-compliance, to either bring a claim or trump a claim against them.
Amongst the usual suspects is the omission of the party’s signature on the physical contract itself and the assumption that as a result “all bets are off.”
The bad news is, that for close to 140 years, contracts are viewed as legally binding by the conduct of the parties, without documentation or negotiation, and are still supported by implied statutory terms. Ask yourself when you last saw and signed a contract in the supermarket.
Naturally commercial contracts have grown in complexity, but nevertheless the principle remains the same.
What about the “T’s & C’s”? In general, “the governing criterion is the reasonable expectations of honest sensible businessmen. Contracts may come into existence, not as a result of offer and acceptance, but during and as a result of performance”
Simply, it is expected that if an issue is important, the businesses should’ve and would’ve checked; just because they didn’t, it does not lessen or diminish their existence, subject to the usual test of “reasonableness” in the Unfair Contract Terms Act.
In short, as always, the “devil’s in the detail”. Ignore the T’s & C’s at your peril, in the knowledge that just because you didn’t sign on the dotted line, it doesn’t mean you didn’t agree the terms.