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Translating general terms and conditions
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Is the translation of general terms and conditions obligatory?

We know all about it; the obligatory “small print”. Everyone knows about it, but most ignore it although it is of great importance! The general terms and conditions protect you as an entrepreneur from many business problems, such as a late delivery or overdue payment. But what’s the deal when entering a foreign market?

Will your English general terms and conditions suffice? Or is it necessary to translate them into French, German, Dutch or another language? Do the translated terms and conditions require legal verification or is it a case of just translating them literally? You can read all about it in this blog post.

What do the general terms and conditions say?

Put simply, your general terms and conditions contain the rules that you, as entrepreneur, want to apply to agreements. They are intended for your customer or client and state everything regarding delivery, payment, liability, the warranty term and any repairs, for example. But also:

  • Applicability of the general terms and conditions.
  • Delivery conditions.
  • Force Majeure.
  • Termination of the contract.
  • Complaints.
  • Renewal and termination.

General terms and conditions are needed for international online shops, for services you provide or for a product you sell. In all cases it’s important that they are legally sound and accessible to your target audience. That’s why they can be downloaded from websites and often accompany a quote. By drawing up good general terms and conditions, you reduce the risks you run as a business owner.

Is the translation of terms and conditions obligatory?

In view of general terms and conditions, the law only prescribes a few requirements. The translation is not a direct requirement, but the fact that the other party must be able to understand the general terms and conditions is. The logical consequence is that you must offer the general terms and conditions in an understandable language. In addition, the legal translation must comply with the legal provisions and regulations of the country where you want to use them.

Okay… but what does “understandable language” mean? If you’re sure that your customers can understand a language other than their own, it’s probably fine to use that language for the general terms and conditions. So there’s no obligation to translate your general terms and conditions into German for use in Germany, as long as you’re sure that all German customers understand the general terms and conditions in English.

There are countries that have stricter requirements. In Quebec (Canada) it’s mandatory that all contracts are in French. France has no such requirement. Although it’s not compulsory to have general terms and conditions in your client’s or customer’s language, we recommend that you do. It contributes to a good image; you show that you’re putting in an effort for your customer, you’ll gain more trust and increase the chances of success.

Which law is actually applicable?

The fact that you have your general terms and conditions translated does not mean that foreign law applies as well. If you’re going to conquer the Italian market and you have Italian terms and conditions, UK law could still apply. What you have to do is include a translation of the sentence “UK law applies”. In this way it remains an English legal document, but one that is readable for the right customer.

Tip; have your general terms and conditions legally verified before entering a foreign market

Engaging the services of a legal translator or agency to translate your terms and conditions is recommended. They are familiar with legal terminology and will help you reduce your business risks.

But beware; translating your general terms and conditions does not automatically mean that they will be legally valid in the country where you will be using them. As making them legally valid is not part of translating general terms and conditions, always have your terms and conditions checked by a jurist with knowledge of local legislation.

Want to learn more?

Would you like to learn more about the translation of general terms and conditions and your investment in them? Request a free, non-binding quote. We will then ensure that you’re fully informed within two hours.

PS Want to have your website translated as well? Read our blog post ’10 really indispensable tips when having your website translated’.