Potential solutions

There are four ways in which such potential problems can be overcome at the enquiry stage:

  • Use of the institution's enquiry/quotation form. With this system, the buyer sends the supplier a two-page document, page one being the enquiry and page two the quotation form on which the supplier makes his offer.  On the back of both forms are the institution's conditions of purchase.  The supplier is asked to sign the quotation and confirm that he accepts the buyer's purchasing conditions.  A signature on this form is likely to be accepted by the courts as evidence that the supplier was agreeing to these conditions and therefore prepared to allow them to supersede his own.
  • The use of the tender procedure rather than the enquiry/quotation system. Here the supplier must respond on the buyer's tender documentation and accept the conditions of tender.  The buyer may, however, lose the right to negotiate with this system.
  • The use of 'Request to Supply' forms.  When prospective suppliers wish to quote for the buyer's business they are asked to sign a form saying that they have read the Conditions of Purchase and agree that any dealings between the two organisations will be on these terms.  It should be noted that the supplier has not even been given an opportunity to quote at this stage.
  • The use of 'acknowledgement receipt' letters.  With this simple system, when the buyer receives an order acknowledgement he/she posts a simple pro-forma letter saying, "Thank you for your acknowledgement to order number xxxx, please note however, that the order will be governed by our conditions of purchase".  Thus the buyer should have the last word in the Battle of the Forms.