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Unfair contract terms

Contract terms define the rights and duties of the parties who are bound by them.

Standard contract terms facilitate commercial transactions and can also work to the advantage of consumers. In consumer contracts, sellers and suppliers possess a considerable advantage by defining the terms in advance that are not individually negotiated.

Directive on Unfair Contract Terms

The Directive on unfair terms in consumer contracts introduces a notion of "good faith" in order to prevent significant imbalances in the rights and obligations of consumers on the one hand and sellers and suppliers on the other hand.

This general requirement is supplemented by a list of examples of terms that may be regarded as unfair. Terms that are found unfair under the Directive are not binding for consumers.

The Directive also requires contract terms to be drafted in plain and intelligible language and states that ambiguities will be interpreted in favour of consumers.

EU countries must make sure that effective means exist under national law to enforce these rights and that such terms are no longer used by businesses.


Follow-up measures

In 1997, the French "National Consumer Institute" (INC) prepared a report on the implementation of the Unfair Contract Terms Directive français(Rapport d'une étude par INC, November 1997).

In 1999, the Commission organised the conference "The Directive on "Unfair Terms" five years later - evaluation and future perspectives" in order to discuss the application of the Unfair Contract Terms Directive.

More information about the Conference:

In 2000, the Commission reportedpdf [354 KB] on the implementation of the Unfair Contract Terms Directive.

The Directive is part of the ongoing Fitness Check of the EU consumer and marketing law.

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