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Chapter

Cover Anson's Law of Contract

10. Duress, Undue Influence, and Unconscionable Bargains  

Jack Beatson, Andrew Burrows, and John Cartwright

This chapter discusses the nature and operation of duress, undue influence, and unconscionable bargains. Duress and undue influence occur where one party to a contract has coerced the other or exercised such domination that the other’s independence of decision was substantially undermined. In the limited category of cases in which the doctrine of unconscionable bargains operates, it is necessary to show not only that the process by which the contract was made was unfair but that there is contractual imbalance, i.e., the doctrine extends to the actual substance of the contract and the fairness of its terms. Conduct which constitutes duress or undue influence by a trader against a consumer may also constitute a ‘prohibited practice’ under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, which will give the consumer ‘rights to redress’ under the Regulations.

Chapter

Cover Anson's Law of Contract

9. Misrepresentation and Non-Disclosure  

Jack Beatson, Andrew Burrows, and John Cartwright

This chapter focuses on relief for misrepresentation and for the exceptional cases in which there may be relief for non-disclosure, and considers misrepresentations that have not been incorporated as a term of the contract. In such cases, the misled party will sometimes be entitled to claim tortious damages in respect of loss sustained by reason of the misrepresentation. If the misrepresentation was made fraudulently, damages in the tort of deceit can be recovered. If it was made without reasonable care being taken to ascertain its truth, the misled party may recover damages by virtue of statute, or at common law in the tort of negligence. Where the party making the misrepresentation believed, and had reasonable grounds to believe, that the facts represented were true, although the contract is still voidable at the suit of the misled party, tortious damages cannot be claimed but damages may sometimes be awarded in lieu of rescission. A misrepresentation made by a trader to a consumer may also constitute a ‘prohibited practice’ under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, which will give the consumer ‘rights to redress’ under the Regulations. A pre-contractual misrepresentation therefore may give rise to a wide range of remedies: rescission of the contract, as well as damages by statute or at common law, in contract or tort.

Chapter

Cover JC Smith's The Law of Contract

19. Unconscionable bargains and inequality of bargaining power  

This chapter considers the law on unconscionability and inequality of bargaining power. English law has traditionally been cautious about wholeheartedly adopting such sweeping principles as ‘unconscionability’, preferring instead to avoid unfair outcomes through particular doctrines (for example, misrepresentation, duress, and undue influence). Some contracts may be set aside if they are considered to be an ‘unconscionable bargain’, i.e. if the claimant is ‘poor and ignorant’, the terms of the contract are substantially disadvantageous to the claimant, and the claimant had no independent advice. There is no general principle in English law that a contract can be set aside due to inequality of bargaining power.

Chapter

Cover Complete Contract Law

15. Undue Influence, Unconscionability, and Equality of Bargaining Power  

This chapter examines undue influence, which is largely about pressure and influence arising from a relationship. It begins with the basic role of the law on undue influence before moving to the substantive case law. The case law is divided into three categories, which are based on the different ways of proving undue influence. The first relates to what is known as ‘actual undue influence’, which is where a complainant proves undue influence. The second is where undue influence between two parties can be presumed from the circumstances. The third category has been a major problem in modern cases and it involves undue influence coming from a third party. The chapter then turns to the wider issues that complete the ‘bigger picture’. The first of these is the area often referred to as ‘unconscionability’, which is about the exploitation of weakness. The second is the attempt to create a wider ‘inequality of bargaining power’ principle. Finally, the chapter looks at the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Practices Regulations 2008, which can cover conduct otherwise classed as duress, undue influence, and harassment.

Chapter

Cover JC Smith's The Law of Contract

20. Good faith  

This chapter considers the principle of good faith. English law has traditionally been cautious about wholeheartedly adopting an overriding principle of good faith preferring instead to avoid unfair outcomes through particular doctrines (for example, misrepresentation, duress, and undue influence). However, the law in this area is developing. It appears that agreements to negotiate in good faith are not enforceable where no contract is yet in place, but, where the parties have already made an agreement, a term (whether express or implied) that the contract should be performed in good faith is enforceable. Similarly, there may be (implied) terms that discretionary powers be exercised in a manner that is not irrational or unreasonable.

Chapter

Cover Contract Law

13. Controlling contract terms  

Exclusion clauses, penalties, and consumer protection

This chapter examines how the law regulates contract terms, with particular emphasis on rules that are intended to protect weaker parties. It begins with a discussion of the limits of freedom of contract and proceeds by assessing the role played by formal requirements, such as the requirement that contracts be in writing. It then considers how the law regulates contract terms which seek to alter the liability that one party will have in the event of breach. More specifically, it looks at exclusion clauses in the common law and the statutory regulation of such clauses, along with liquidated damages, contractual remedies, and the rule against penalties. It also explores the extent to which consumer protection law restricts the terms that can be included in consumer contracts, especially when dealing with the problem of unfair terms.

Chapter

Cover Cheshire, Fifoot, and Furmston's Law of Contract

2. Some Factors Affecting Modern Contract Law  

M P Furmston

This chapter discusses factors affecting contract law which will be met in the rest of this book. It can usefully be read both at the beginning and the end of the book. These include continental influence in the nineteenth century; the influence of economic theory; inequality of bargaining power; the use of standard form contracts; consumer protection; the relationship between standard form contracts, inequality of bargaining power, and consumer protection; contractual behaviour; the interrelationship of contract and tort; good faith in contract law; the globalization of contract law; and the Human Rights Act 1998.

Chapter

Cover Complete Contract Law

13. Misrepresentation  

This chapter explains the law relating to the requirements and remedies for misrepresentation. The rules that the chapter covers developed originally in the context of all types of contracts. However, more recent legislation has introduced some specific protection for consumers. Consequently, the common law rules and older legislation that the chapter covers are now more applicable to non-consumer contracts, i.e. contracts between businesses and those between private parties. The chapter starts by addressing the kind of false statements that can result in a remedy. It then addresses the common law and legislative remedies that could be available to the innocent party. Finally, the chapter turns to the impact of the more recent consumer legislation before finally examining the extent to which an exemption clause could cover liability for misrepresentation.

Chapter

Cover Complete Contract Law

7. Exemption Clauses and Unfair Terms  

This chapter assesses exemption clauses and unfair terms. Exemption clauses are terms that either exclude or limit the liability of a party. The law relating to the use of such clauses is a mixture of rules found in both the common law and legislation; the common law rules apply to all contracts. In addition, the Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977 applies to the use of exemption clauses in contracts between two businesses. For consumers, the Consumer Rights Act 2015 provides wider protection from unfair terms including exemption clauses. The practical context of exemption clauses is simple. One party will be in breach and so the other will seek compensation for the loss caused by the breach. The party in breach will then defend the action by relying on an exemption clause. The dispute is then about whether or not the clause can be relied upon. The circumstances in which terms might be assessed for being ‘unfair’ can be wider than this. Typically, a business will take action against a consumer following the consumer’s failure to perform an obligation, which will then prompt the consumer to challenge the obligation as based on an unfair term.

Chapter

Cover Contract Law Concentrate

9. Misrepresentation  

Each Concentrate revision guide is packed with essential information, key cases, revision tips, exam Q&As, and more. Concentrates show you what to expect in a law exam, what examiners are looking for, and how to achieve extra marks. This chapter discusses the identification of actionable misrepresentations which affect the fairness of the process by which a contract was entered into, and render that contract voidable for misrepresentation (liable to be set aside and the parties restored to their pre-contractual positions). It identifies three types of misrepresentation depending on the state of mind of the misrepresentor: fraudulent, negligent, or innocent. It distinguishes between remedies available for the different types of pre-contractual statements, specifically rescission and damages for the different types of misrepresentations, and briefly explains the distinction between commercial contracts and the remedies available to consumers under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.