Getting quotes and signing contracts

Getting a quote

A quote is a statement of the price at which a business will supply goods or services. When you accept a quote, you have formed a contract. Always get at least three written quotes before you buy expensive goods or services.

You should also make sure that:

  • the quote includes every part of the job
  • you have read the entire quote, including terms and conditions
  • you understand everything in the quote (get legal advice if you don’t)
  • the business knows not to start any work until you approve it
  • the business has a licence to perform the work
  • the business can show you references from previous customers, so you can see the quality of their work.

Signing a contract

If possible, always enter into written contracts. Having all the terms and conditions in writing will help you if something goes wrong. Keep a signed copy of your contract for future reference.

Find out if the contract sets out any ways for either party to terminate the agreement. This might include a cooling-off period in case you change your mind.

You must get an automatic cooling-off period when you enter a contract with:

  • a door-to-door salesperson
  • a telemarketer.

Contracts are never valid if they require any party to break the law.

'Standard-form' consumer contracts

What are they?

Many businesses use ‘standard-form consumer contracts’. These are pre-prepared contracts that a business uses for all of its customers. A business offers their contracts as ‘take it or leave it’, and you get no chance to negotiate.

Read and fully understand any contract before signing it. Ask the business to remove any term that you believe to be unfair.

Standard-form consumer contracts are common for:

  • telecommunications
  • finance
  • domestic building
  • gym memberships
  • motor vehicles
  • travel
  • utilities.

What rules apply?

Extra rules apply to standard-form contracts. These rules can protect you from unfair contract terms.

A contract term is unfair if it doesn't fairly divide rights and obligations of both parties.

Only a Court can decide if a term is unfair. Get legal advice if you believe you signed an unfair contract.

Unfair terms might give the business the right to:

  • avoid or limit delivering on the contract
  • terminate the contract unfairly, or without you knowing
  • avoid penalties for breaking or terminating the contract
  • change the terms of the contract without your agreement
  • renew the contract automatically without your agreement
  • change the upfront price without also letting the other party cancel the contract
  • change the goods, services or land interests from what they promised without your agreement.

A term may unfairly protect the business's interests if it lets them:

  • decide by themselves what forms a breach of contract
  • choose what the contract means
  • take no responsibility for the actions of its agents or contractors 
  • pass their contract responsibilities to another party without your consent (if doing this would impact you negatively)
  • limit your rights to sue them
  • limit what evidence you can use if you do sue them
  • pass onto you their legal responsibility to prove something if you do sue them.

We can ask Courts to remove unfair terms. If the Court finds that a term is unfair, then the term becomes void, as if it never existed. The rest of the contract is still valid (as long as the contract can still operate without that term).