FRIDAY, MAR. 16: As a consumer you are responsible for looking out for your best interest.

You should always take steps to ensure that when you are doing business, no matter what it is, you are protected.

Yes, the Consumer Protection Act 1999, does protect consumers from unfair business practices, unconscionable acts and unsafe consumer products, but consumers are better off taking precautions so that they can avoid any unpleasant issues in the first place.

Many of the cases that we see here at the Department of Consumer Affairs could possibly have been avoided if consumers did one thing first — get it in writing.

A written contract is a valuable tool in helping to resolve an issue, should one arise. Far too often though, many people will hire someone or engage in a service with only a verbal conversation to confirm their intentions.

Verbal conversations are not reliable, your instructions can easily be misinterpreted, and when a business deal goes south, it becomes a ‘he said, she said’ disagreement and finding a resolution becomes difficult.

 My suggestion is to start with something in writing.

Whether you are signing up for local or long distance phone service, renovating your home, having your vehicle repaired or hiring a landscaper, before you do anything with anyone, get it in writing.

Having a contract will save you a whole lot of grief.

Depending on the size and scope of the project, it doesn’t have to be very complicated, but it must be clear, you must understand it, you must agree to the terms and conditions, it must contain all of the key information about the project or service and the person or company you are doing business with and all parties involved must sign and date the contract.

Obviously, if you are contracting a large and/or complicated project, having a lawyer review it is highly recommended.

By putting things in writing, there is very little room for mistakes and remember, if changes occur during the life of your ‘contract’ make sure you amend the contract to reflect these changes and all parties must sign off on any changes.

For those of you who are already in the middle of a project or have verbally contracted a service, it isn’t too late to put together a contract or at the very least, keep detailed written notes of every conversation and transaction.

For more information on contracts, visit our web-site

Honey Adams is the education officer for the Department of Consumer Affairs.