Unfair Terms in UK Law

Leading Cases
  • Director General of Fair Trading v First National Bank Plc
    • House of Lords
    • 25 Oct 2001

    The object of the regulations and the directive is to protect consumers against the inclusion of unfair and prejudicial terms in standard-form contracts into which they enter, and that object would plainly be frustrated if regulation 3(2)(b) were so broadly interpreted as to cover any terms other than those falling squarely within it. In my opinion the term, as part of a provision prescribing the consequences of default, plainly does not fall within it.

    Openness requires that the terms should be expressed fully, clearly and legibly, containing no concealed pitfalls or traps. Fair dealing requires that a supplier should not, whether deliberately or unconsciously, take advantage of the consumer's necessity, indigence, lack of experience, unfamiliarity with the subject matter of the contract, weak bargaining position or any other factor listed in or analogous to those listed in Schedule 2 of the regulations.

    The directive made provision for a dual system of ex casu challenges and pre-emptive or collective challenges by appropriate bodies: see article 7. This system was domestically enacted in the 1994 Regulations, with the Director General of Fair Trading as the administering official to investigate and take action on complaints: see regulation 8. The 1999 Regulations extended the system of enforcement by including other bodies as qualified to undertake pre-emptive challenges.

    It is obviously useful to assess the impact of an impugned term on the parties' rights and obligations by comparing the effect of the contract with the term and the effect it would have without it.

  • George Mitchell (Chesterhall) Ltd v Finney Lock Seeds Ltd
    • House of Lords
    • 30 Jun 1983

    It must follow, in my view, that, when asked to review such a decision on appeal, the appellate court should treat the original decision with the utmost respect and refrain from interference with it unless satisfied that it proceeded upon some erroneous principle or was plainly and obviously wrong.

  • Hadley Design Associates Ltd v The Lord Mayor and Citizens of the City of Westminster
    • Queen's Bench Division (Technology and Construction Court)
    • 09 Jul 2003

    Something more is needed, and on principle that something more, in my judgment, is that the relevant terms should exist in written form prior to the possibility of the making of the relevant agreement arising, thus being "written ", and they should be intended to be adopted more or less automatically in all transactions of a particular type without any significant opportunity for negotiation, thus being "standard".

  • Watford Electronics Ltd v Sanderson CFL Ltd
    • Court of Appeal
    • 23 Feb 2001

    They should be taken to be the best judge on the question whether the terms of the agreement are reasonable. The court should not assume that either is likely to commit his company to an agreement which he thinks is unfair, or which he thinks includes unreasonable terms., Unless satisfied that one party has, in effect, taken unfair advantage of the other – or that a term is so unreasonable that it cannot properly have been understood or considered the court should not interfere.

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