FREE SOFTWARE PAGE
July 3, 2003
Copyright (c) 2003 The Yale Journal of International Law, Inc.
Journal of International Law
28 Yale J. Int'l L. 109
LENGTH: 39685 words
ARTICLE: Standard-Terms Contracting in the Global Electronic Age: European Alternatives
James R. Maxeiner+
+ Visiting Professor of Law, The Catholic University School of Law and
Rutgers-Camden School of Law. J.D. with specialization in International Legal
Affairs, Cornell 1977; LL.M., Georgetown 1981; Dr. jur., Ludwig Maximilians
Universit<um a>t (Munich, Germany) 1986. Formerly, as Vice President and Associate General
Counsel of Dun
& Bradstreet, the author was a business observer/participant in the meetings of
the drafting committee of Proposed Article 2B - Licenses, which became the
Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act. He testified in favor of the act
in the two states that have adopted it. He is a member of the American Law
Institute. The views expressed here are entirely his own. Translations are the
author's unless otherwise noted.
... For example, in a standard term the buyer may
"agree" with the seller to negate a warranty that contract law would otherwise imply.
... While a particular term in a particular contract is deemed unfair, the
system of negative enforcement does not prevent others from using the same term
found to be unfair or the user of the unfair term from adopting a similar term.
... Section D examines how the initial proposals for the E.U. Unfair Terms
Directive challenged the contract model in Germany and how German commentators
influenced the final form of the Unfair Terms Directive. ... Section 305c(2)
provides that any doubts in construction of a standard term are to be resolved
against the user. ... If a licensee is a consumer, almost certainly the
license is subject to German standard terms law. ... Accordingly, the German
legal system rejects the less concrete consumer model. ... The German contract
model is not content to place confidence in a single general clause to control
content. ... Instead, the German contract model guides the content control of
the general clause with presumptions and supplements it with
"black" lists that treat explicitly specific types of terms. ...
The issue of standard terms in contracts is a roadblock on the road to reform
of American contract law in the era of electronic commerce. In the
[*110] 1990s the two sponsors of the Uniform Commercial Code ("U.C.C.") - the American Law Institute ("ALI") and the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws ("NCCUSL") - decided to modernize Article 2 of the U.C.C., which deals with sales of
goods, and to create a new Article 2B, to govern licensing of
"computer information," i.e., information in electronic form, including software.
n2 By the end of the decade this ambitious project lay in shambles. In April
1999, ALI rejected Proposed Article in part because it did not make major
changes in existing law governing standard terms. In July 1999 NCCUSL rejected
the proposed Revised Article 2 - Sales in part because it did seek to change
existing law. This continuing controversy is discussed below in Part II.C.
Standard terms are contract terms that one party formulates for use in its
contracts generally and provides to other parties for use in their mutual
transactions. Typically they are not negotiated but are presented to customers
at the conclusion of bargaining over the contract's principal subject matter.
Standard terms are often referred to pejoratively as
"boilerplate." Their legal importance is that they alter default solutions provided by law.
That is, the law provides one solution that applies
"unless the parties agree otherwise." In standard terms, the parties
"agree" otherwise. For example, in a standard term the buyer may
"agree" with the seller to negate a warranty that contract law would otherwise imply.
Standard terms are a feature of the vast majority of written contracts. Since
only one party participates in their formulation, they offer opportunity for
that party to introduce terms that the other might not willingly agree to in
n3 In the words of a popular song,
"the large print giveth, and the small print taketh away."
For over forty years American law has authorized courts to decline to enforce
"unconscionable" terms. This unconscionability control is not limited to standard terms,
although it has its principal application there. How necessary and how
successful it has been is controversial. While some observers believe that
economic self-interest largely prevents standard terms drafters from
overreaching and that a control limited to the rare
"unconscionable" term is sufficient,
n5 others complain that the current control is awkward at best and woefully
inadequate at worst.
[*111] The development of information in electronic form and of software
"computer information") has given standard terms new and increased importance. Computer information
contracts are hardly imaginable without standard terms. Computer information
"licenses." The standard terms of these licenses set out what the parties contracting for
the information, i.e., the licensees, may do with it. Typically these licenses
limit the number of users the licensee may permit to use the information,
restrict the uses that the licensee may put the information to, and control the
circle of recipients to whom the licensee may distribute the information. The
wish for legal validation of standard terms computer information licenses,
n7 was a major goal of the backers of the Uniform Computer Information
Transactions Act ("UCITA").
Thanks to development of the Internet, standard terms are a global issue.
Parties from different countries meet on the Internet. They enter into online
license agreements that govern use of Internet sites and transactions in
computer information. They reach contracts for international sales of goods
that utilize standard terms. As a result, standard terms designed for use in
one country are subject to laws for which they were not designed. Dozens of
terms in common use by American Internet service providers such as AOL and
CompuServe have been struck down abroad as unlawful. Even mighty Microsoft has
bowed to consumer associations rewriting its standard license for Windows 2000.
Ever more countries are adopting standard terms laws. In 1993, on the eve of
the commercialization of the Internet and just as the United States began
revising the U.C.C., the European Union ("E.U.") introduced controls on standard terms. It adopted Council Directive 93/13/EEC
of April 5, 1993 on unfair terms in consumer contracts (hereinafter, the
"Unfair Terms Directive"). The directive requires Member States to have unfair terms statutes that meet
certain minimum standards. Those standards are more restrictive than American
law. Other countries outside Europe have also adopted standard terms statutes.
The E.U. Unfair Terms Directive did not appear out of nowhere. Perhaps its most
important source of inspiration was the German Standard Terms Statute of 1976
[Gesetz zur Regelung des Rechts der Allgemeinen
[*112] Gesch<um a>ftsbedingungen].
n10 That statute itself seems to have had a common origin with present day
American law. In the 1950s, just as both the U.C.C. and the Common Market were
being launched, German and American legal systems were both working on new
approaches to standard terms. The approaches in the two countries were
strikingly similar. This seems to have been a product of a flow of ideas across
n11 In any case, by the 1960s and 1970s the courts in the two countries were
working to give form to those new rules. In Germany the courts were
sufficiently successful that the legislature could codify the rules in a new
statute, the Standard Terms Statute of 1976.
Already in the 1950s when the U.C.C. was first under consideration, Rudolf B.
Schlesinger called for a
"serious study of the advantages and disadvantages" of the methods undertaken to control oppressive clauses in Europe and America.
n12 Schlesinger had an essentially legislative rationale for his proposal - such a
study would bring critical perspective to drafting American laws. In 1976, on
the eve of adoption of the German Standard Terms Statute, John P. Dawson
published such a study of the then existing German case law. He found much to
admire in German law and counseled that
"German experience can be a guide."
n13 Two decades later, when ALI and NCCUSL took up revisions to the U.C.C.,
Professor Peter Winship reminded them of Schlesinger's invocation that
"the civilians have faced the same issue and resolved it with a variety of
devices," and he renewed the call for a systematic study.
n14 The comparativists' call for systematic study has gone unheeded, even though
now there is also a highly practical reason to study foreign standard terms law.
The goal of this article is to begin at long last such systematic comparative
studies of foreign standard terms laws from an American perspective. Its aims
are at the same time both highly practical - facilitation of compliance with
foreign law - and highly scientific - improved comprehension of the issues and
approaches available to deal with standard terms.
[*113] This article examines American, European Union, and German law. It considers
not only current law, but significant aspects of the development of these
bodies of law. Awareness of the latter furthers understanding of the former.
Part II sets out general issues involved in standard terms laws and summarizes
American law. It notes the possible origin of American concepts in Europe and
examines standard terms in the struggle over revision of the Uniform Commercial
Code. Part III looks at the law of the European Union and its origin in the
consumer movement. Part IV considers in detail the law of one Member State as
an example, that of Germany.
n16 Finally, the conclusion summarizes the results of the examination and notes
insights into American practice that European experiences suggest.
II. American Law
Part II first examines standard terms in contracts as a general issue. It then
summarizes standard terms in American law
n17 and notes the possible origins of the American law in the German law of the
day. Finally, it examines the treatment of standard terms in the reform of the
Uniform Commercial Code.
A. Standard Terms Generally as a Legal Problem
Standard terms have been used for well over a century. The issues involved in
their use have long been known. Contract law in Western countries is based on
the principle of freedom of contract. Thus, to varying extents, but generally
as much as is widely acceptable in any one system, contract law is default law.
That is, it is law that applies unless the parties agree otherwise.
The nineteenth century brought not only mass production, but also mass
distribution, and with mass distribution, form contracts. In form contracts the
party supplying a product or service (referred to here as
"user") spells out the terms on which the party does business and which it expects
the other party to accept (referred to here often as the
"other party"). Standard terms permit suppliers to rationalize their offerings, to control
their agents, and to avoid wasting time negotiating terms that they are not
prepared to vary. Standard terms can provide answers to questions on which the
law is silent.
n18 Yet just
[*114] as form contracts provide benefits, so too, they produce problems. Karl N.
Llewellyn observed that users of standard terms may
"turn out a form of contract which resolves all questions in advance in favor
of the one party."
n19 What controls, if any, should a legal system place on such terms?
In contract law, terms become parts of contracts because parties assent to
them. Typically where standard terms are used, however, parties are asked to
submit to them unread or, if read, not necessarily understood.
n20 Moreover, when parties do read and understand standard terms and object to
them, the parties imposing them may refuse any alteration. Where standard terms
are inalterable, parties asked to
"agree" to the terms in some instances will have no easy alternatives other than to
submit. That is most obviously the case where the supplier has a monopoly or
where all other suppliers use the same terms. But practically - at least in
smaller matters - it may also be the case where the inconvenience of seeking
out alternatives is disproportionate to the dangers involved in accepting the
terms. Users of standard terms act in their own interests.
n21 Ask in house counsels to speak candidly and they will acknowledge, as one
general counsel advised senior management of a Fortune 500 company, that
"the purpose of form contracts is primarily to protect the needs of our
[internal] clients, not to protect the interests of our customers."
n22 But when users provide terms in their own self-interest, and parties
submitting to them do not read them or have no choice but to accept them,
possibilities for abuse arise.
Recognition that contract law should provide some measure of protection against
overreaching in contract terms is near universal in modern legal systems.
n23 Comparative law questions relate to how different legal systems perceive and
define the problem and how they seek to resolve it.
n24 Perceptions of the problem mostly lie between two points of view. One view
sees the issue as a contract law question of how the general contract law
requirement of assent applies to standard terms; the other view sees the
problem as an issue of protection of weaker parties to contracts. Actions taken
to resolve the problem tend to address one or both of two principal questions.
One question is whether and what formal or procedural requirements should
determine whether terms become parts of contracts (referred to here as
"incorporation control"). The other question is whether and how the content or
[*115] substance of terms should be subject to control (referred to here as
"content control"). All of these concepts are found in American law.
B. American Approaches to Standard Terms, Especially in the U.C.C.
American treatments of standard terms have been dominated for over forty years
by concepts identified with Llewellyn:
"blanket assent." Llewellyn's influence is pervasive to this day.
n25 As the leading commercial law scholar of the mid-twentieth century, principal
architect of the U.C.C., and Reporter for Article 2, Llewellyn drafted section
2-302 of the U.C.C. It permits, but does not require, a court to decline to
enforce a term that it finds
n26 While a precursor of section 2-302 drafted in the early 1940s applied only to
n27 section 2-302 is not limited to controlling standard terms. It applies to
transactions between merchants as well as to transactions with consumers.
Section 2-302 first became law in 1954 when Pennsylvania became the first state
to adopt the U.C.C.; in the 1960s it became law throughout the land.
n28 Llewellyn considered the section to be
"perhaps the most valuable section in the entire Code."
n29 Subject to much discussion
n30 and criticism from the beginning, section 2-302 has never been amended. It
almost certainly will remain essentially unchanged for the foreseeable future.
[*116] Section 2-302 was not Llewellyn's last word on the subject. In the 1960s he
introduced the concept of
"blanket assent" to explain what happens in standard form contracts. He denied that there is
assent to all the terms of a standard form contract. Assent, he argued, applies
only to the few
"dickered" terms, the broad type of the transaction, and
"a blanket assent (not a specific assent) to any not unreasonable or indecent
terms the seller may have on his form, which do not alter or eviscerate the
reasonable meaning of the dickered terms."
n32 The idea is said to dominate American treatment of standard forms.
From this base the United States has dealt with standard terms. Court decisions
and scholarship - there has been no legislation as such
n34 - have built on this base, seeking to make sense of it, and working to make it
effective. Competing or perhaps better described as complementary approaches,
i.e., the doctrines of
"reasonable expectations" and a somewhat similar scheme used in the Restatement of Contracts, have
sought favor. The efforts have not been universally regarded as successful.
Llewellyn considered the authority bestowed on courts by section 2-302 to be
novel in American law.
n36 Comparative law scholars believe that Llewellyn drew his inspiration for
section 2-302 from the practice of controlling standard terms in Germany under
the general clauses of the German Civil Code.
n37 Although in the latter part of his life Llewellyn
[*117] preferred to downplay, if not conceal, the importance of foreign ideas on his
n38 his familiarity with the German legal system is now well known.
n39 While from New York City, Llewellyn graduated from high school in Germany and
he spoke German fluently. In the 1920s and early 1930s, he spent two years in
Leipzig as a visiting professor and published one of his most important
jurisprudential works there.
n40 His knowledge of the pre-War practice of standard terms control is obvious
from his review of the first comparative book on the topic in which he stated
some of his thoughts on the subject.
n41 Just as he may have drawn on German law in drafting section 2-302, Llewellyn
may also have drawn inspiration for his idea of blanket assent from German
practice in the 1950s.
Section 2-302 on unconscionability is the principal American treatment of
standard terms. Even where it is not directly applicable - because a
transaction does not involve a sale of goods - its approach is often followed,
either explicitly or sub silentio.
n43 Section 2-302 is not limited to standard
[*118] terms, but applies to all contract terms, including separately negotiated
terms. In practice, however, most cases in recent times involve standard terms.
n44 Review of standard terms is not limited to any one class of contracting
parties, e.g., consumers, but applies generally to all parties. Cases applying
section 2-302 in practice often involve businesses,
n45 although businesses are said to have little success except in cases of
Section 2-302 is a general clause, essentially authorizing courts to review
contract terms. It provides little direction and is not backed up by any list
of unconscionable terms. The question is a legal one for the court, but
requires taking evidence on the term's
"commercial setting, purpose and effect."
n47 Unconscionability determinations are
"fact-sensitive" and are made on a
n48 Although section 2-302 does not distinguish between incorporating standard
terms into contracts and controlling the contents of those terms, the Official
Comment seems to suggest, when it references oppression and unfair surprise,
that the section is concerned with both issues.
n49 Notwithstanding the absence of a clear statutory mandate, commentary and case
decisions under 2-302 distinguish between
"procedural unconscionability" and
n50 That pair of terms corresponds to incorporation control and content control,
respectively. Procedural unconscionability is concerned with how the parties
reached agreement and which terms are part of it, i.e., the contract documents,
their legibility and comprehensibility, etc. Substantive unconscionability
relates to the promises actually made in the terms themselves, e.g., liability
Since section 2-302 has no explicit control on incorporation of terms, courts
have derived a control from the general prohibition of unconscionability.
Perhaps as a result, they are disinclined to invalidate terms
[*119] on this ground alone, except in cases of essential goods or services and
n51 They commonly require that both procedural and substantive unconscionability
be present, employing what has been called a
"sliding scale" that allows taking into account both elements.
n52 They are reluctant to invalidate a term based on substantive unconscionability
n53 A most peculiar result follows from this: a clever user need only make sure
that the other party knows of the term's existence. A party who knows what he
or she is agreeing to cannot later complain that it is unconscionable.
n54 American law imposes on that party a duty to read which is said to enshrine
the writing as
"sacrosanct" and make it
The unconscionability standard of section 2-302 conjures up a picture of Simon
Legree demanding the debtor's first-born child to guarantee performance.
n56 It seems to have been meant to impose a hurdle higher than unfairness.
n57 The Official Comment says that Section 2-302 is not designed to adjust for
imbalances in bargaining power in order to protect weaker parties. Thus it
would seem to be more concerned with the bargain that is struck than with the
respective strengths and weaknesses of the parties.
n58 Although some
[*120] courts have attempted to give a more concrete definition to unconscionability,
no generally accepted tests have emerged.
n59 The cases are said to be too fact specific to lead to a useful body of case
Two alternative tests have been proposed: that of Restatement section 211
n61 and that of
"reasonable expectations." Under Restatement section 211(3),
"Where the other party has reason to believe that the party manifesting such
assent would not do so if he knew that the writing contained a particular term,
the term is not part of the agreement." The Restatement test has not been frequently applied. A few years ago one
review found only forty-three reported decisions applying this test, of which
twenty-five came from Arizona.
n62 As this provision has been applied, courts have focused on the expectation of
the party manifesting assent rather than the drafter of the terms,
notwithstanding that the language suggests a contrary focus.
n63 This has resulted in the Restatement test becoming more like the
"reasonable expectations" test.
The reasonable expectations test invalidates a term that lies outside what a
party might reasonably expect. The reasonable expectations test has been
applied mostly to insurance contracts, particularly where the fine print
negated the insured's purpose in acquiring the insurance.
n65 Both the Restatement and reasonable expectations tests look to the
expectations and intentions of the particular parties to the transaction.
In important respects all three approaches are similar as applied. They provide
general clauses with somewhat different tests. They do not provide separate
regimens for incorporating terms into contracts. They do not give specific
types of objectionable terms. Their focus is on the individual parties and is
case-specific. They do not develop abstract and generalizing rules. They are
all said to follow Llewellyn's concept of
"blanket assent" which is said to be
"best understood to mean that, although consumers do not read
[*121] standard terms, so long as their formal presentation and substance are
reasonable, consumers comprehend the existence of the terms and agree to be
bound to them."
Section 2-302 provides only one mechanism for dealing with unconscionable
terms: a court may choose not to enforce them. That mechanism, of course,
assumes that the user seeks to enforce the unconscionable term. Section 2-302
makes no provision for damages, injunctive, or declaratory relief. It provides
no authorization for proactive action by an administrative or other public law
body. It is the same for both the Restatement and the reasonable expectations
tests. As a result of the method of enforcement, use of unconscionable terms is
practically a no-risk proposition. If one party uses the term and the other
party does nothing, one wins. If the other party has the wherewithal to
challenge the term, if the challenge is unsuccessful, the party using the term
wins. If, on the other hand, the party challenging the term wins, the user is
no worse off than if he or she had never used the term at all. He or she can
now redraft the term in slightly different language and use it again.
Unconscionability, in any case, has proven to be a hard standard to meet: only
a small handful of cases - according to one count, just fourteen in one
ten-year period - did.
n69 Judge Posner noted some years ago that Indiana was
"so unfriendly to the defense of unconscionability" that in more than twenty years there was only one reported case where it was
accepted: a clause, untitled, in fine print, whereby a high school drop-out
guaranteed a multinational oil company against the consequences of its own
So how is the American approach of unconscionability judged? A current
consumers' guide published by the American Bar Association concludes in typical
telegraphic text that the rule's application is
"uncommon, uneven, and unpredictable."
n71 Most scholarly commentators would probably agree. Standard works on contracts
n72 and studies of unconscionability suggest as much.
n73 Section 2-302 is extremely difficult to defend as a working rule and hardly
[*122] Instead of admiring how well it works, supporters of section 2-302 emphasize
that alternatives are likely to be worse. When section 2-302 originated, it was
subject to much controversy. There was much fear that it would disrupt the
commercial world. Llewellyn surely did not have disruption in mind when he
proposed section 2-302, but, just as surely, he did hope that section 2-302
would lead to judicial development of a
"machinery for striking down"
n74 improper terms that would permit courts to
"police explicitly against the contracts or terms which they find to be
n75 The feared disruption has not occurred.
n76 But the cost has been that the provision is rarely enforced and has little
effect on actual business practice.
Advocates of the
"alternatives-would-be-worse" approach fall into two basic camps that might be characterized as optimists
and pessimists. Optimists like the present law. Some believe that there is no
n78 or that the market sufficiently discourages opportunism in standard terms.
n79 Others feel that section 2-302, with all its warts, works pretty well.
n80 Pessimists, on the other hand, concede that section 2-302 does not work well.
But they doubt that there is any way to improve on it. They are resigned to a
less than satisfactory law. Typically they are inclined to continue with
judicial development of unconscionability.
The defenses of section 2-302 are less than satisfying. If oppressive terms are
not a problem, then why not simply dispense with the section
[*123] altogether? Nearly everyone recognizes that application of section 2-302 does
not work well. But if standard terms are a problem, then why not do something
meaningful about them? There is no apparent reason why one should believe that
a law that is rarely applied and that has little sanction when it is applied
much affects business behavior. Advocates of the status quo insist upon
"hard statistical data" to justify revision.
n82 Perhaps they should present data supporting the status quo. One need not look
far to see that section 2-302 has invalidated only a tiny number of standard
terms. An examination of cases illustrates that even the variety of terms
subject to the section is limited. Nevertheless, empirical research into what
terms businesses actually use would be welcome.
Mixed judgments of section 2-302 are not limited to the scholarly community. A
split in public perception became apparent in the course of the reform of the
U.C.C. Then consumer groups largely opposed section 2-302 unconscionability
while business interests generally supported it.
C. The U.C.C. Reform Debacle
By the late 1980s the U.C.C. seemed middle-aged. Article 2 appeared to need
change. Since it had been drafted in the 1940s, it had no provision for
software or other forms of computer information. An official study commission
created in 1988 recommended that a drafting committee be appointed to propose
revisions to Article 2. A committee was appointed and began meeting in 1992.
As originally conceived, Revised Article 2 was to include both the existing law
of sales of goods and new law for licensing computer information. It was to
accomplish this through an approach known as
"hub-and-spoke." Matters common to both types of transactions were to be covered by the
"hub," while matters peculiar to one type of transaction were to be covered in their
"spokes." This approach to drafting is well-known to those familiar with European codes
that are divided into
"Special" parts. The approach contributes to consistency and uniformity in the law.
n86 In 1995 the leadership of NCCUSL decided to abandon the hub-and-spoke approach
in favor of a separate article for software and information, Proposed Article
2B - Licenses. It appointed a separate drafting committee to create a new
[*124] The two drafting committees went about their work separately, although they
tried to coordinate their work as best they could. Both committees held open
meetings in which they welcomed anyone who wished to attend, and many observers
did. Nevertheless, consumer interests soon identified the Proposed Article 2B -
Licenses Drafting Committee with the software industry, while business
interests saw the Revised Article 2 Drafting Committee as anti-business. It
thus should not have been a total surprise when, in 1999, ALI, which itself was
less identified with business interests, rejected Proposed Article 2B -
Licenses, and NCCUSL, which was more identified with business interests,
rejected Revised Article 2.
Neither NCCUSL nor ALI was ready to discard nearly a decade's worth of work.
Both acted swiftly to rescue something out of the ashes. NCCUSL was able to act
first because it could act alone. It is the source of uniform laws; only for
the Uniform Commercial Code does it share sponsorship with ALI. By the simple
expedient of detaching the proposed law from the U.C.C., NCCUSL could and did
promulgate Proposed Article 2B - Licenses without ALI's cooperation. It dubbed
the new law the Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act, or
"UCITA." Transforming Article 2B - Licenses into UCITA did require sacrificing the aura
of association with America's leading uniform law, the U.C.C. Losing that aura
may have diminished UCITA's chances for enactment. The criticism that had led
to ALI's defeat of Proposed Article 2B - Licenses did not abate. More than
three years after UCITA's promulgation, only two states - Maryland and Virginia
- have enacted it. In summer 2002 NCCUSL amended UCITA to improve chances for
adoption by other states.
ALI, on other hand, could not unilaterally save Revised Article 2 - Sales. ALI
had to have the cooperation of NCCUSL in order to amend Article 2, which is
part of the U.C.C. While ALI was able to save the idea of revision, it could
not keep the 1999 proposal intact in the manner NCCUSL was able to maintain
Proposed Article 2B - Licenses. After Revised Article 2 - Sales was rejected in
summer 1999, ALI conferred with NCCUSL and together they appointed a new
drafting committee to write a new Revised Article 2 - Sales. While that new
draft retained features of the defeated proposal, it eliminated much that had
been controversial, and generally simplified and scaled back the changes
originally proposed. That new draft, somewhat modified, is likely to receive
final approval in 2003.
The original Reporter for Revised Article 2 - Sales, Professor Richard Speidel,
has explained the different courses that the two proposed laws have taken by
pointing to the economic interests concerned with them. In the case of UCITA,
former Proposed Article 2B - Licenses, there were substantial economic
interests behind the legislation. In the case of Revised Article 2 - Sales, on
the other hand, there was no comparable group pushing for adoption.
[*125] Indeed, Speidel believes quite the contrary was the case. According to
"strong sellers" are very pleased by current Article 2 - Sales:
"Limited only by the porous doctrines of unconscionability and good faith,
strong sellers are able to shape the contract to fit their interests,
particularly where small business and consumers are involved."
n90 He charges that they opposed proposed revisions without themselves offering
solutions that they would accept. He suggests that consumer interests were
underrepresented in both committees' deliberations.
The U.C.C. reform caused latent discontent with section 2-302 and its treatment
of unconscionable standard terms to surface. The two drafting committees that
set to work in 1995 had very different views of how they should treat standard
terms and unconscionability. The Revised Article 2 - Sales Drafting Committee
sought to develop a new, stronger rule, while the Proposed Article 2B -
Licenses Drafting Committee chose to maintain the status quo. Consumer
representatives involved in the process lauded the former and condemned the
latter while business representatives tended to do just the reverse.
The Associate Reporter for Revised Article 2 - Sales, Professor Linda Rusch,
has detailed the Revised Article 2 - Sales Drafting Committee's efforts to
reform the U.C.C.'s treatment of standard terms contracts.
n93 Early drafts of Revised Article 2 - Sales distinguished between standard terms
and negotiated contracts.
n94 Use of standard terms invoked rules that, to prevent unfair surprise,
encouraged users to disclose the terms and to obtain informed consent. Not long
into the drafting process, however, NCCUSL leadership decided to drop rules
that turned on whether a contract used standard terms.
None of the drafts of Revised Article 2 - Sales would have created a separate
incorporation control; all of them would have controlled incorporation and
content together in the same provisions. But the Revised Article 2 - Sales
Drafting Committee sought to strengthen those provisions' control over content
using a new general clause. The Committee's drafts left the unconscionability
provision essentially intact and added a new section 2-206 of varying texts.
That latter provision would have provided additional safeguards applicable to
standard terms in consumer contracts.
n96 For a time the Committee focused on a reasonable expectations test and
attempted to concretize that standard to meet criticism that it created too
n97 In the end, however, the Committee dropped the reasonable expectations test
and settled on one based on commercial fair dealing.
[*126] The final version of Proposed section 2-206 reads, in part:
(a) In a consumer contract, a court may refuse to enforce a standard term in a
record the inclusion of which was materially inconsistent with reasonable
commercial standards of fair dealing in contracts of that type, or, subject to
section 2-202, conflicts with one or more nonstandard terms to which the
parties have agreed.
The Committee's final proposal, however, protected warranty disclaimers and
warranty modifications that met Code requirements from being invalidated. It
thus would have preserved for business one of the most valuable uses of
1. Proposed Article 2B/UCITA
As already noted, standard terms are especially important in the computer
Copyright law does not protect all information and does not always provide the
protection that computer information providers need. Because of limited legal
protections provided by intellectual property laws, computer information
providers need contractual protections. For the industry, the license is the
n99 Securing the validity of those licenses was one of its major goals in seeking
adoption of Proposed Article 2B - Licenses.
The opening position of Proposed Article 2B - Licenses on standard terms was
not dissimilar from that of Revised Article 2 - Sales. Given their common
origin, that is not surprising. Both started off distinguishing standard terms
and negotiated terms, required full opportunity to review, and adopted a
general clause review along the reasonable expectations line.
n100 Their ending points, however, were rather different.
Whereas Revised Article 2 - Sales dropped a distinction between standard terms
and negotiated terms, UCITA maintained one in its definition of standard form.
n101 This enables it to extend its protections not only to
[*127] consumers, but to all participants in
"mass market transactions."
n102 Advocates of UCITA cite this as a significant advance and a
"dramatic legal shift."
n103 Yet critics say that the distinction makes relatively little difference in the
law that was adopted.
Unlike Article 2 and Revised Article 2 - Sales, UCITA has a provision directed
toward incorporation of standard terms. Originally, section 209(b) provided
that standard terms could become effective in a mass market license even though
"a copy of the license is not available in a manner permitting an opportunity to
review by the license before the licensee becomes obligated to pay."
n105 To make this result more palatable, the section gave the licensee a generous
right to return at the expense of the licensor. This shift was somewhat less
dramatic than it might otherwise have been, however, because before UCITA was
drafted, the Seventh Circuit seemed to allow the same result under Article 2.
n106 The provision met significant resistance. At its 2002 Annual Meeting NCCUSL
revised section 209 to provide that a term does not become part of the license
"the licensee does not have an opportunity to review the term before agreeing to
The early drafts of Proposed Article 2B - Licenses followed the test of
Restatement section 211(3).
n108 In 1997 the Drafting Committee dropped the Restatement test in favor of the
unconscionability standard of section 2-302. At the suggestion of the NCCUSL
1998 annual meeting in July, the test was broadened to prohibit terms contrary
n109 The public policy provision is to make clear that UCITA does not uphold
licenses that are invalid under federal
copyright law. The public policy exception was regarded as not changing existing law.
As enacted, UCITA provides that terms in mass market licenses are not
enforceable if they are unconscionable, preempted by federal law, or contrary
[*128] to public policy.
n111 Its unconscionability provision in section 111 is a virtual clone of U.C.C.
section 2-302. Critics find little to cheer about in UCITA's control of
standard terms. According to one,
"UCITA's approach to form contracts in commercial transactions can be captured
in one word (enforced)."
n112 Another characterizes it as
When the Proposed Article 2B - Licenses Drafting Committee backed off the
reasonable expectations test of the Restatement, it considered proposals for
stricter review of license terms than the unconscionability standard of 2-302,
including one dubbed
n114 But those against a more stringent test had one argument at their ready
disposal: Article 2B - Licenses was supposed to codify existing law and not
create new law.
n115 They had only to point to that law. The Reporter, Professor Ray Nimmer,
"With very few exceptions, standard form contract terms are enforceable."
The argument that the proposed law tracks existing law was more persuasive with
the Proposed Article 2B - Licenses Drafting Committee and with the NCCUSL
Annual Meeting than it has been with consumer advocates and others in the
n117 Outside the rarified air of drafting committees and annual meetings, critics
continue to attack UCITA as too friendly to software suppliers and too
unfriendly to consumer interests. They include library associations who fear
that suppliers will use standard terms to
[*129] limit use of materials in ways not presently limited by
n118 Only some critics recognize that UCITA, in upholding standard terms, is not
departing from existing law.
n119 Prospects for nationwide enactment of UCITA are uncertain at best.
2. Absence of Comparative Law Inquiries
Both the Revised Article 2 - Sales and the Proposed Article 2B - License
Drafting Committees spent a great deal of time considering alternatives to
section 2-302. The Revised Article 2 - Sales Drafting Committee in particular
discussed possible new solutions to the problem seemingly endlessly. One can
hardly help but wonder whether those discussions might have been quicker and
ultimately more productive if only the committees had had knowledge of foreign
approaches. They would have been able to observe standard terms control systems
more extensive than section 2-302 in actual operation; they would not have had
to guess whether such a system was even possible. The Committees would have had
models for ways to implement such systems; they would not have been limited to
considering only general clause approaches. Comparative law inquiries could
have helped overcome our limited abilities either to conceive of or to
experiment with alternatives.
At no time during the decade long U.C.C. reform project did either of the
Drafting Committees (or anyone else at ALI or NCCUSL) study foreign experiences
with standard terms laws. Indeed, the Drafting Committees were
[*130] hardly aware of them. Foreign readers who are accustomed to comparative law
studies being made when new legislation is under consideration are sure to be
surprised. Their surprise is all the more justified when one considers that (1)
at least one American comparativist called the Committees' attention to those
n121 (2) existing American law may have had a foreign inspiration, and (3) just as
the Committees began their work, the International Institute for the
Unification of Private Law (UNIDROIT) adopted Principles of International
Commercial Contracts that include some special rules for standard terms.
n122 The Reporter for the post-1999 version of Revised Article 2 - Sales, Professor
Henry Gabriel, explained that the lack of interest in foreign approaches is to
be attributed to the law revision process itself, which is focused on the
"This focus tends to be inward-looking - always focused on the existing Code
itself, and therefore, the comparisons with other codes, such as the United
Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods (CISG) and
the UNIDROIT principles, tend to be incidental as opposed to deliberate."
Only recently and outside of the U.C.C. reform process has the United States
seen approaches to standard terms that do more than provide variations on a
familiar melody. In 1998 the New Jersey Law Revision Commission proposed a new
statute to govern standard terms.
n124 The proposed statute is unlike anything else ever seen in the United States.
Its goal is to protect freedom of contract from pernicious standard terms; it
is not a consumer protection statute. It is not limited to a general clause,
n125 but identifies specific types of contract issues, which it then approves,
prohibits or marks for evaluation.
n126 The similarities to European laws are unmistakable.
[*131] than introducing the proposed Act as a bill, the New Jersey legislature has
not acted on it. The Commission itself did not produce a study of European laws
and presumably did not have the resources to do so. The balance of this article
seeks to make a start in that direction.
III. European Union Law
Part III addresses control of standard terms in the law of the European Union.
Part IV goes on to consider the law in one Member State, Germany. Part IV is
necessary because the E.U. law of unfair terms is not directly applicable.
There, as in most areas of law, the European Union has chosen to harmonize
national laws rather than to adopt a single E.U. law. The device to accomplish
harmonization is the directive. Directives are instructions to Member States to
adopt laws with particular content. But directives are binding only as to
result, and not as to form and method of implementation.
n128 The focus of this Part is on the European Union's Council Directive 93/13/EEC
of 5 April 1993 on unfair terms in consumer contracts. Adopted in 1993, the
Unfair Terms Directive is the basis of E.U.-wide control of standard terms. It
requires Member States to conform their laws to the directive's model.
A. Origin in Consumer Protection
The Unfair Terms Directive is consumer protection legislation. The first
Europe-wide efforts to address standard terms accompanied the growth of the
consumer movement in the 1970s. Even before the European Union looked at unfair
terms, a broader and looser group of European States, the Council of Europe,
began looking at the issue in 1973. On November 16, 1976, it adopted Resolution
(76) 47 on
"Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts and an Appropriate Method of Control" and issued an explanatory memorandum.
[*132] The Resolution noted that consumers were increasingly offered goods and
services on terms that prejudice their interests but which they had no power to
amend. The resolution's first recommendation was to encourage Council members
to adopt legislation to protect consumers
"against unfair terms in contracts based on standard texts and in other
contracts where the consumer has little, if any, possibility of negotiating or
influencing their content." The scope of the resolution was limited to consumers, but with respect to
consumers it applied to consumer contracts generally and not just to standard
terms. The resolution addressed both incorporation and content.
The accompanying explanatory memorandum found the source of the problem in the
essence of standard terms. Suppliers generally have the advantage in drafting
standard contract forms. Individual consumers rarely negotiate those terms and,
if they do, they seldom have bargaining power sufficient to protect their
interests. The principle of freedom of contract permits suppliers through use
of standard terms to impose on consumers terms that
"satisfy the suppliers' interests but disregard the interests of the consumers."
n131 The explanatory memorandum gives a non-exhaustive list of twenty-eight terms
considered to be unfair in the majority of member States. It classes those
terms into six broad general classes: terms regarding formation, termination,
and performance; terms limiting the liability of the supplier; terms limiting
the consumer's rights or remedies; terms relating to security; terms relating
to disputes; and other terms. The specific terms are familiar. A few examples
from the list are given in the margin.
The European Union itself first raised the issue of one-sided standard terms in
1975 when the Commission, the E.U.'s principal governing body, issued its first
consumer protection proposals. In the 1970s a number of E.U.
[*133] Member States adopted national standard terms legislation.
n133 Only weeks after the Council of Europe issued its recommendations, the German
legislature adopted the Standard Terms Statute.
n134 In 1976 the Commission issued a preliminary draft directive of standard
clauses in consumer contracts. That proposal died.
Throughout the legislative processes in Europe comparative law played a part.
In 1978 the Council of Europe made standard terms the subject of its Eighth
Annual Legal Colloquy on European Law. The colloquy included reports on
standard terms law in the United Kingdom, Germany, Israel, Sweden, Cyprus, and
n136 In 1984 the Commission of the European Union returned to the issue of unfair
terms and issued a working paper on abusive clauses in consumer contracts.
n137 Before issuing a draft directive, it commissioned a comparative study of the
law in the Member States of the European Union and elsewhere.
In 1990 the Commission again proposed a draft directive on unfair terms. The
Union adopted the final version of the Unfair Terms Directive on April 5, 1993.
n139 It required Member States to implement it by December 31, 1994. Adoption of
the Unfair Terms Directive was part of a larger initiative in the consumer
protection area. In 1992 a new article was added to the E.U. Treaty that
specifically directs the Union to address the interests of consumers.
n140 Several other directives also provide consumers protection.
B. The Unfair Terms Directive
The Unfair Terms Directive is a
"minimum" directive, that is, it sets out minimum standards. Article 8 explicitly
permits Member States to maintain or
[*134] to adopt
"more stringent provisions" in order to ensure
"a maximum degree of protection for the consumer."
The Unfair Terms Directive is limited to contracts with consumers, i.e.,
natural persons acting for purposes outside their trade, business, or
n143 It does not require that Member States control standard terms that are used
between non-consumers, although the laws of some Member States do.
n144 As originally proposed, it would have applied to all terms in all contracts
with consumers. As a result of Member State criticism, the scope of the
directive was narrowed. As adopted it does not apply to terms that have been
"Pre-formulated standard contracts" are not individually negotiated.
n146 It excludes from content review the
"main subject matter of the contract" and the
"adequacy of the price and remuneration."
The Unfair Terms Directive has no specific provision that governs incorporation
into contracts. It is debated whether the
"transparency" provision of Article 5 - which requires that when in writing
"terms must always be drafted in plain, intelligible language" - should be regarded as an incorporation control or a content control."
n148 The principal problem with that interpretation is practical: as presently
structured, for a term to be invalidated, it must be unfair under the content
control of Article 3.
Control of the content of terms is the heart of the Unfair Terms Directive.
n150 The control consists of a general clause, essentially in Article 3, and a list
of exemplary unfair terms in an Annex. Article 6(1) provides that
"unfair terms" as defined in Article 3 shall not be binding on consumers in contracts with
sellers or suppliers. Article 3(1) requires that a contract term shall be
regarded as unfair
"if, contrary to the requirement of good faith, it causes a significant
imbalance in the parties' rights and obligations arising under the contract, to
the detriment of the consumer."
n151 Although the language of Article 3(1) suggests that two separate criteria must
be met, i.e.,
[*135] significant imbalance and action contrary to good faith, the official position
is that any clause that causes a significant imbalance is by definition
contrary to the principle of good faith.
n152 Perhaps because the Unfair Terms Directive is not directly applicable law,
this point has not been as significant an issue as it might otherwise have
been. It is in effect resolved by the implementing language that a particular
Member State uses. Article 4(1) provides that the unfairness of a term is to
take into account
"all the circumstances attending the conclusion of the contract." But, as already noted, national law is not to judge whether the contract
itself is unfair.
A separate Annex lists seventeen different specific types of terms that may be
n154 The list is
"indicative" only, that is, a contractual term on the list is not automatically deemed
unfair but only subject to evaluation.
n155 The terms identified in the list, rather than the language of the general
clause itself, are to serve as
"the first and the essential reference point in answering the questions: what is
unfairness? when are there grounds for considering a clause as unfair?"
n156 Since the Unfair Terms Directive is a minimal directive, Member States may
completely prohibit terms in the Annex. Some Member States have done so. There
have been proposals that the Unfair Terms Directive itself should be amended to
consist of both a list of terms subject to evaluation and a prohibited list.
n157 A few of the items on the list may be discussed briefly here.
Item (b) of the Annex to the Unfair Terms Directive has been the most
frequently litigated class of term.
n158 It permits finding a term unfair and thus unenforceable if the term has the
object or the effect of inappropriately excluding or limiting the legal rights
of the consumer vis-a-vis the seller or supplier or another party in the event
of total or partial non-performance or inadequate performance by the seller or
supplier of any of the contractual obligations, including the option of
offsetting a debt owed to the seller or supplier against any claim which the
consumer may have against him. Item (b) recently lost significance when the
European Union took a still more aggressive approach to the issue of
guarantees. In Directive 1999/44/EC of the European Parliament and of the
Council of 25 May 1999 on certain aspects of the sale of consumer goods and
associated guarantees (the
"Guarantees Directive"), it made certain guarantees mandatory. No review of terms for unfairness is
necessary where the law makes the terms mandatory.
Item (i) of the Annex to the Unfair Terms Directive is particularly significant
in connection with shrink-wrap and click-wrap licenses. It provides that a term
may be found unfair if it has the object or effect of
"irrevocably binding the consumer to terms with which he had no real opportunity
[*136] becoming acquainted before the conclusion of the contract." This incorporation control is at odds with the original version of UCITA
section 209 that authorized this very type of term.
Item (q) of the Annex to the Unfair Terms Directive calls for evaluating, among
other terms, a term
"excluding or hindering the consumer's right to take legal action or exercise
any other legal remedy, particularly by requiring the consumer to take disputes
exclusively to arbitration not covered by legal provisions." The European Court of Justice held that this provision renders invalid forum
selection clauses with consumers.
n161 The court found that a clause that selected the seller's principal place of
business which was far from the consumer's domicile (but in the consumer's home
"must be regarded as unfair within the meaning of Article 3 of the Directive in
so far as it causes, contrary to the requirement of good faith, a significant
imbalance in the parties' rights and obligations arising under the contract, to
the detriment of the consumer."
As noted Article 6 provides that unfair terms shall not be enforced. But the
Unfair Terms Directive is concerned with more than invalidating objectionable
terms. It seeks affirmatively to stamp them out. Article 7(1) requires Member
States to ensure that
"adequate and effective means exist to prevent the continued use of unfair terms." The Unfair Terms Directive does not limit the means chosen. It does not
require a particular form of judicial or administrative proceeding. Leaving
aside measures not available throughout the European Union, two procedures that
are available in all countries to help stamp out unfair terms might strike
American lawyers as unusual. The European Court of Justice held recently that
effective protection of consumers requires that national courts of their own
motion determine whether a term is unfair.
n163 The second measure is the consumer association action required by Article 7.
Its Paragraph 2 requires that consumer groups be authorized to bring actions
"to prevent the continued use of such terms."
n164 It requires further that these actions may be directed against sellers
collectively and not just against a single seller.
n165 These measures are designed to overcome the infirmities of private litigation
where ordinarily the judgment affects only the party before
[*137] the court, and not the world at large (i.e., inter partes, but not ergo
omnes), and only for that one specific term.
Article 6(2) of the Unfair Terms Directive requires that Member States take
steps to ensure that the directive's protections are not circumvented by choice
of non-European Union law. This requirement, however, applies only if the
consumer has a close connection
"with the territory of the Member States."
C. Implementation in the Member States of the Unfair Terms Directive
Member States must conform their laws to the requirements of directives.
Conformity does not mean uniformity; the actual implementation of directives
varies significantly from Member State to Member State. Although directives are
often quite detailed, a review of their provisions can give only a partial
picture of the applicable law. This is the case with the Unfair Terms
Directive, which is less specific than some other directives. Part IV of this
article discusses the application of the Unfair Terms Directive in Germany and
gives a picture of how the directive actually works in practice in one country.
This section provides an overview of the steps that have been taken to
implement the directive throughout the European Union, but does not address the
actual law in each of the Member States.
The Unfair Terms Directive instructed the Commission to report on the
directive's implementation after five years. The Commission delivered its
report in April 2000 ("Commission Report"). The Commission Report includes a list of the implementing statutes in the
n168 Detailed reports on implementation in the individual Member States were
included in the papers of a conference held prefatory to the issuance of the
The Commission reported that it had brought proceedings before the European
Court of Justice against all the Member States for infractions in implementing
the directive, but that most of these proceedings had been concluded without
the Court having to issue a judgment. Subsequent to the Commission Report, the
Court has issued several judgments on implementation. The only judgment of the
Court that went against the Commission was the case against Sweden, where the
Court held that Sweden did not need to include the Annex of the Unfair Terms
Directive verbatim in its positive law, since the Annex was merely exemplary
and since Sweden both included the Annex in the legislative history and
actually dealt directly with most of the terms contained in the Annex in its
[*138] The Commission also reported on its own efforts to implement the directive.
These included subsidizing dialogues between consumers and industry at both the
national and European levels, subsidizing legal actions for injunctions brought
by consumer groups to eliminate unfair terms, conducting information campaigns,
sponsoring a conference on implementation of the directive in Member States,
and working to develop empirical data on unfair terms.
n171 The last mentioned is among the more interesting from an American perspective.
While in the United States a well-represented view holds that the incidence of
"unconscionable" terms in contracts is low, there is no comparable position in Europe.
Nevertheless, on both sides of the Atlantic participants in discussions of
standard terms have lamented the absence of empirical data that might confirm
the existence of a problem and disclose its extent.
n172 The Commission undertook as part of its mission of implementing the directive
a program to fill that gap. There were two basic components to that effort:
market studies and a case-law database. Its report summarizes the results of
seven different market studies that examined use of unfair terms in contracts
in a variety of industries and countries.
In order to monitor implementation of the directive, the Commission set up for
an initial five-year period a data base, accessible to the public, to include
all known legal decisions regarding unfair terms (the
"CLAB" Database). The CLAB database includes files based on specific contractual
terms challenged in legal action as unfair. Although the collection focuses on
consumer contracts, CLAB also includes decisions regarding terms strictly
between non-consumers. In its initial five years of operation the database
accumulated 7649 cases.
n174 About 3000 of these cases predated the directive. About one third of the
Commission Report is devoted to an annex giving statistics from the CLAB
n175 The Commission has now asked for bids to carry on the CLAB database for five
In its report the Commission left no doubt that it believes that unfair terms
in consumer contracts are a real problem. It concluded that
"balanced contractual relations are anything but the rule, that unfair terms are
[*139] used, and that new types of unfair terms arise by the day."
n177 The market studies demonstrated, it contended, not only
"the ubiquity of unfair terms in standard-form contracts but also the enormous
difficulty of getting hold of the contractual terms before concluding a
D. The Future of the Unfair Terms Directive
The Commission Report is not limited to stating the law at the turn of the
century. The Commission in its report also raised questions designed
"to trigger the widest and most fruitful possible debate on the subject."
n179 The Commission referred its report, including its questions for comments, to
the Economic and Social Committee, a formal body of the European Union
established under the Treaty of Amsterdam to give non-binding advisory
opinions. While the Commission Report on a whole was rather upbeat, the
Committee's response was less so. Its first conclusion was:
"Rather than merely
"approximating' legislation, the main objective of any future revision of
Directive 93/13/EC - which is hopefully not far away - must be to truly
harmonise and standardise legislation in the Member States in this area."
The Commission revisited the limitations on the directive's scope. It noted
that the implementation laws in some Member States did not include all three
exclusions contained in the directive, i.e., of non-consumers, of individually
negotiated terms, and of the main subject matter of a contract.
n181 It asked whether one or more of these limitations should be eliminated. The
Economic and Social Committee answered yes: get rid of all three.
The Commission raised relatively few questions about the future of the content
control. It noted that in practice, it had not made much difference whether a
member state had chosen to adopt the general clause of Article 3(1) almost
verbatim or had rephrased it to a greater or lesser extent. More important in
the Commission's view was the way in which Member States had transposed the
Annex list of suspect terms into national law. The Commission stated its view
that the practical effect of the content control would be greater if all Member
States would adopt the list and do so in a way that minimized its vagueness and
led to published
"black lists" of prohibited terms. It asked whether the contents of the indicative list
should be given in greater detail or number and whether its nature should be
n183 The Economic and Social Committee answered that the list should not be
lengthened, but tightened up
[*140] and simplified. A
"black list" should be created to stand beside the
The Commission noted deficiencies in the transparency requirement. It asked
whether changes were needed and whether consumers should be given the right to
review terms before concluding a contract.
n185 The Economic and Social Policy Committee replied that
"all necessary steps" should be taken.
Many of the Commission's questions, and its most provocative suggestions,
relate to what the Commission termed
"positive" enforcement. The problem, the Commission asserted, is that the existing system
"negative" enforcement is not enough. While a particular term in a particular contract is
deemed unfair, the system of negative enforcement does not prevent others from
using the same term found to be unfair or the user of the unfair term from
adopting a similar term. Colorfully the Commission commented:
"Unfair terms are like the Hydra: cut off one head and others grow in its place."
The Commission posed a whole series of questions related to improving the
existing system of negative enforcement and to adopting a new system of
positive enforcement. Among the more provocative: Should penalties be
introduced to discourage use of unfair terms?
n188 Should a procedure be established to declare court decisions to have an effect
n189 Should an administrative body be established to analyze and prohibit terms?
n190 Should actions be taken at a Europe-wide level to eliminate unfair terms?
The Economic and Social Committee was less receptive to changes in enforcement.
It found unjustified the Commission's suggestion that civil penalties be
n192 It did encourage the Commission to explore the possibility of establishing
procedures to make a finding that a term is unfair binding on everyone.
n193 It endorsed creating a Community level administrative arrangement and greater
use of administrative mechanisms.
n194 It stated, however, that a prior approval system was generally inappropriate
because it would be
"extremely bureaucratic" and still would not guarantee an absence of unfair terms.
The Economic and Social Committee observed a need to clarify the principle of
good faith so that it would not lead to different national provisions. Of its
own motion the Committee recommended a comparative law inquiry. It asked the
Commission and the member states
[*141] explore the possibility of adopting a new approach to this whole area, drawing
on U.S. experience with the drafting of framework or standard laws."
The future of these proposals is uncertain. What is clear, however, is that the
European Union has taken a strong position that it will protect consumers
against unfair terms. Just how that position is implemented in one country is
the subject of the next part of this article.
IV. German Law
The Unfair Terms Directive, just as any other directive of the European Union,
has force only insofar as the fifteen - soon to be twenty-five - member states
implement it. In proceedings before the European Court of Justice, the
Commission of the European Union acts vigorously to assure that member states
implement directives fully and completely. To see how the Unfair Terms
Directive actually applies, one must examine national law.
Because directives leave to each member state the form and methods of its
implementation, each implementing law is unique to the country adopting it.
Ideally, this article would examine the law in each of the member states of the
European Union. But no one author could know all the languages and legal
systems involved necessary for an examination of fifteen, let alone
twenty-five, member states. A consortium would be necessary. For the purpose of
this article, it is sufficient to focus on the law of one Member State.
Hopefully, similar studies of the laws of other member states will follow
publication of this article.
While the law of any Member State could illustrate the implementation of the
Unfair Terms Directive, this article examines the law of Germany. There are
several reasons for the choice. An obvious economic reason is that Germany,
with over eighty million inhabitants, has the largest population of any country
in the European Union. Its law presumably governs the most transactions of any
Member State's law. But there are more important intellectual reasons to look
at the law of Germany first. The German legal system was among the first
European legal systems to identify the issue of standard terms and was the
first to address the issue systematically. Its Standard Terms Statute was very
influential in the drafting of the European directive. As has been noted, its
law also may have had a significant influence on American law in its formative
Part IV examines German law and its development in detail. Section A considers
the judge-made law that controlled standard terms through 1976. Section B sets
out the contract model for controlling standard terms that was developed by the
courts and that became the basis of the Standard Terms
[*142] Statute of 1976. Section C summarizes the principal provisions of the 1976
Standard Terms Statute as it became part of the German Civil Code in 2002.
n198 Section D examines how the initial proposals for the E.U. Unfair Terms
Directive challenged the contract model in Germany and how German commentators
influenced the final form of the Unfair Terms Directive. Finally, Section E
discusses how German law applies to American Internet licenses.
A. German Judge-Made Law
The German legal system has long provided some control over the use of
standard terms. American jurists are used to thinking of the United States as a
country of judge-made law, while they see Germany as a country of legislation,
yet for three quarters of the last century, German law controlling standard
terms was judge-made.
n199 In Germany, as in the United States, form agreements achieved widespread use
by the end of the nineteenth century. Already in 1871 a statute that imposed
liability on railroads also prohibited agreements excluding that liability.
n200 Given German insistence that judges have a basis in statute to act, German
judges were not quick to challenge standard terms. In 1883 the German Supreme
Court (then known as the Reichsgericht) held that freedom of contract - in the
absence of any legislation - precluded courts from intervening to control
standard terms no matter how offensive the terms might be.
When the German Civil Code came into force in 1900, the courts acquired a
statutory basis for intervention. That basis was in the general clauses of the
Code, especially in sections 138 and 242. The first paragraph of section 138
"A transaction that offends good morals (gute Sitten) is void."
n202 One might translate
"offend good morals" as
n203 Section 242 provides:
"Obligations shall be performed in the manner required by good faith [Treu und
Glauben], with regard to commercial usage."
n204 Using these two general clauses, German courts limited enforcement of standard
[*143] Through the 1930s German courts relied principally on the good morals
provision of section 138 to police standard terms.
n205 Their focus then tended to be on monopoly situations where the party presented
with the terms had no choice but to accept them.
n206 In 1935 Ludwig Raiser moved the discussion a major step forward by the
publication of his post-doctoral dissertation (Habilitationsschrift), Das Recht
der Allgemeinen Gesch<um a>ftsbedingungen, which provided a thorough analysis of the problems involved
under the then-applicable law.
n207 Raiser's book was reprinted in 1961 and to this day is cited as a principal
source of inspiration in the field.
n208 Raiser asked whether there was a misuse of the freedom of contract not only
where the user of standard terms has a monopoly position, but also where the
user depends upon the indifference or legal inexperience of the other party.
Soon after the reestablishment of a democratic government following the Nazi
dictatorship, the reconstituted German Supreme Court (Bundesgerichtshof)
addressed the issue of control of standard terms. While building on the work of
the old Court, the new Supreme Court put its own stamp on standard-terms
n210 From a technical viewpoint, it shifted from relying on the good morals
provision of section 138 to the good-faith provision of section 242.
n211 But in addition to this seemingly technical change, the Court's decisions of
the 1950s and 1960s set in motion broader changes in thinking that culminated
in the Standard Terms Statute. These changes are discussed below in Section B.
Notwithstanding the active role German courts had taken in controlling form
n212 by the early 1970s there was consensus that it was time for legislation. The
consumer movement had gathered strength and parties on both sides of the
legislative aisle sought its approval.
n213 The Ministry of
[*144] Justice established a working group that proposed legislation, while the
opposition Christian Democrats prepared a competing proposal. Both drafts were
available when, in September 1974, the German Jurists' Association (Deutscher
Juristentag) considered the issue of standard terms contracts at its biennial
n214 Professor Hein K<um o>tz, one of Germany's leading comparative-law scholars, was commissioned to
write a 100-page review of standard terms for the meeting, which he titled
"Which Legislative Measures Recommend Themselves for the Protection of the
Consumer Against General Terms and Form Contracts?"
n215 The title of Professor K<um o>tz's report - provided to him by the Association - is significant. It is
"which legislative measures" and not,
"whether legislative measures" are called for.
n216 There was little opposition to having some form of strengthened control.
Indeed, the political parties all agreed on the final bill and it passed both
houses of the German legislature unanimously.
Dissatisfaction with judge-made law was grounded not in its content but in its
efficacy. The problem was one of judge-made law generally and not just of
judge-made law of standard terms. Above all, judge-made law is limited in its
scope. Courts can act only in cases that are brought to them, so their
decisions have a limited effect. Court control of terms often did not take
place because of the risks of litigation (in Germany, the losing party pays the
costs). Courts could control only the most flagrant abuses; they were not seen
as well suited to deal with more subtle abuses. Even parties subject to adverse
decisions could readily reformulate their standard terms. Judge-made law was
criticized for an absence of concrete provisions and for uneven application by
Judge-made law also posed a risk that the German legal system takes
particularly seriously: that judges might make political decisions. In German
[*145] understanding, political decisions are for the legislature and for politically
responsible executors and administrators. The application of law should be
objective. Categorizing certain types of standard terms as unlawful might
constitute political decision-making if the illegality of the terms were not
already sufficiently set out, explicitly or implicitly, in a statute.
Legislation offered a remedy for these deficiencies and a way to avoid this
risk. Legislation is proactive. It can be systematic and have universal effect.
n220 It can bring about a reconsideration of standard terms generally in a way that
single court decisions cannot. Legislation can thus bring a breadth of
application and reduce the incidence of objectionable standard terms.
Legislation can provide increased legal certainty.
n221 Legislation is the appropriate place for political decisions that approve or
disapprove use of particular provisions. In a democratic state, the affected
social groups have an opportunity to participate in these political decisions.
Typically in German and other continental legal systems, comparative law
inquiries precede substantial legislation.
n223 That was the case with the Standard Terms Statute, where such inquiries had an
important role in the movement from judge-made law to legislation.
n224 In 1967 the Association for Comparative Law (Gesellschaft f<um u>r Rechtsvergleichung) sponsored a symposium at its biennial convention in which
experts presented papers setting out the treatment of standard terms in
Germany, France, Great Britain, Italy, Switzerland, Scandinavia, and Israel.
Ludwig Raiser himself presented the final overall report.
n225 He began his report lamenting that he could not
[*146] provide empirical studies of the incidence of standard terms and their abuses.
Their ubiquity, however, could not be doubted. And so too, Raiser said, was the
need for judicial control of their abuses.
Raiser discussed in particular how the presence or absence of content controls
impacted controls on incorporation and interpretation. He observed of the
courts of different countries that the less emphasis they placed on
incorporation and interpretation, the more they were inclined to control
content of standard terms directly; and, the more timid they were in
controlling content directly, the more likely they were to scrutinize strictly
- perhaps too strictly - incorporation and interpretation.
n227 While most countries tended to focus on incorporation and interpretation,
Raiser reported that German and American courts, the latter with perhaps some
reluctance, were increasingly resorting to direct content control. Responding
to criticisms that control under section 242 of the German Civil Code was too
indefinite, he pointed to the newly adopted section 2-302 of the U.C.C. as
another example of a very broad clause.
The legislative history of the Standard Terms Statute demonstrates the
importance of comparative inquiry in the legislation. The official government
report on the proposed bill devoted a subsection to foreign experiences. It
drew attention to the then relatively few statutes that expressly regulated
standard terms, in particular the Israeli Standard Contracts Law. It noted that
in Sweden and the United States general prohibitions of inequitable terms
applied. It took particular note of U.C.C. section 2-302, which it observed was
used principally and increasingly against form contracts. It observed that
contrary to fears that section 2-302 would endanger legal certainty, groups of
cases and approaches were giving the general clause firm contours.
B. The Contract Model
Consensus that action was needed contributed to the adoption of the Standard
Terms Statute. Equally helpful was a large measure of consensus as to how the
statute should limit unfair standard terms without excessively restricting
freedom of contract.
Control of standard terms challenges freedom of contract: how can courts
control terms in parties' contracts without throwing freedom of contract
n230 Default provisions in contract law permit parties to agree to
[*147] results different from those prescribed by law. If parties assent to those
differing results, they are bound by them. If parties use standard terms, when
should they be bound by them? The German answer, which the Supreme Court had
already begun to develop in the 1950s, is referred to here as the
German standard terms law recognizes that when standard terms are used there is
little freedom of contract for the party subject to them.
n232 While the user typically consults legal counsel to draft them and takes care
that the terms work to his or her benefit, the other party rarely does. Thus,
though the terms are typically the focus of the user's daily life, the other
party is engaged in many transactions, each different from the other. The cost
to the other party of exercising the right of freedom of contract is excessive.
Standard terms problems arise because some users exploit their control over
drafting to resolve all issues in their favor in order to override results
provided by law. Yet, the parties have never agreed on these points. Instead,
parties subject to standard terms take those terms as givens. Parties accepting
standard terms negotiate principal issues of price and performance and then
allow users to provide appropriate terms. In effect, they delegate to users the
responsibility to draft terms. Users take upon themselves the obligation to
provide suitable terms in good faith.
n233 Good faith requires that those terms be even-handed. As the German Supreme
Court explained in an early decision:
It depends upon how to evaluate the statements as the expression of the
intention of judicious and honest parties, who want to give their business
dealings a general contractual framework. The circumstance has to be taken into
account, that the principal [Auftraggeber] need not know in detail the content
of the standard terms. Since, on the other hand, it needs his assent to be
bound, his agreement can relate only to such terms as he can reasonably and
fairly expect to be asserted.
[*148] Good faith requires that the user of standard terms not subject the other
party to an unreasonable disadvantage.
German standard terms law sets limits on the freedom of users to exploit their
position as drafters to their sole benefit. It prohibits them from taking
inappropriate advantage of other parties. Thus, the issue is not controlling
the freedom-of-contract (Vertragsfreiheit) of parties, but of preventing abuse
by one party, the user, of that party's freedom of contract-drafting
In German theory, the contract model does not limit freedom of contract. The
parties may agree to the terms they like. What the contract model does is
prevent one party from using the drafting device of standard terms to introduce
terms that unreasonably disadvantage the other party. The contract model does
not ask whether the deal or a particular term between the parties is fair; it
asks whether the standard terms provided by the user are a good faith basis for
the parties' contractual relationship.
The contract model compares a challenged standard term to two principal
measures of validity: the essential basic principles of the statute from which
the standard term deviates and the essential rights or duties necessary to
achieve the purposes of the contract.
n237 Unlike the potentially far-reaching inquiry mandated by American law,
n238 the scope of the contract model is largely limited to the standard term
challenged, the relevant statutory default rules, and the contract concerned.
It requires only review of transactions of the type and classes of participants
concerned, but not of the circumstances of the individual parties to the
n239 The relevant statute serves a
"classifying and guiding function" (Ordnungs-und Leitbildfunktion).
n240 This approach of the contract model is termed
[*149] generellen) rather than
n241 It has permitted German law, through a combination of statutory rules and
judicial decisions, to develop a judicature of specific prohibited terms in
each of their multiple manifestations.
The contract model is oriented on general contract law. As a result, although
the catalyst for passage of the Standard Terms Statute was the consumer
movement, it was not limited, as the Unfair Terms Directive is, to consumer
contracts. The German law exists to prevent abuse of the freedom of contract
drafting by those controlling the drafting of terms. The German law accordingly
protects all parties against misuse of standard terms.
n243 The law requires no finding of weakness in the party subjected to the terms or
oppression by the user. German standard terms law thus is not a special law
protecting consumers against overbearing suppliers. It is a general law that
governs a particular contract practice, i.e. standard terms.
n244 The legislation is an explicit approval of the use of standard terms and an
acknowledgment of the rationalization benefits they bring. It defends the
freedom of contract.
C. German Standard Terms Legislation
The Standard Terms Statute, Das Gesetz zur Regelung des Rechts der Allgemeinen
Gesch<um a>ftsbedingungen (AGB-Gesetz), entered into force on April 1, 1977. The law
quickly assumed a central role in German contract law.
n246 From 1977 to 1999 the German Supreme Court alone, not to speak of the lower
courts, decided more than 1500 cases dealing with the Standard Terms Statute.
n247 The Standard Terms Statute remained a separate statute until
[*150] January 1, 2002, when its substantive provisions became part of the Civil Code
and its procedural provisions became part of a new procedural statute.
n248 No major changes were made in the substantive law as it stood at the end of
n249 During its 25-year life, while certain details were adjusted, the law
experienced no major amendments. The most noteworthy event in its life was its
harmonization with the E.U. Directive.
n250 The law is widely regarded as a success.
n251 In some sectors of the economy, use of standard terms increased upon adoption
of the law.
This article refers to the standard terms legislation by the new Civil Code
section numbers rather than by the section numbers of the Standard Terms
Statute. Set out below is a transposition table that identifies those
provisions by their section numbers in the Standard Terms Statute. Attached as
an Appendix to this article is an English translation of the Civil Code
[*151] The standard terms law consists of two principal parts: an incorporation
control in sections 305 to 305c, and a content control in sections 307 to 309.
n253 The definition of
"standard terms" in section 305(1) largely determines the scope of the law. Standard terms are
terms prepared beforehand for a multiple number of contracts and are presented
(stellt) by the user to the other party at the contract's conclusion.
n254 The form in which the terms appear does not matter and they may or may not be
separate from the rest of the contract. section 305 provides that terms
separately negotiated between the parties are not standard terms and are not
subject to control under the standard terms legislation.
1. Incorporation Controls
Besides defining standard terms, section 305 provides the general rule for
when standard terms become part of a contract as a body. Sections 305a through
305c modify the general rule of section 305. Section 305a provides special
rules for the transportation and telecommunication industries; Section 305b
provides that individually negotiated terms take priority over standard terms,
and section 305c provides incorporation and interpretation rules for individual
Section 305(2) requires that users of standard terms give other parties notice
and an opportunity to review the terms. Standard terms do not become part of
the contract unless they comply with these formalities and the other party
assents to their use. The notice may be oral or in writing. If, for certain
types of contracts, an express notice creates disproportionate difficulties, a
suitable sign at the place of contracting may suffice. The notice must be
apparent to an average customer. Thus, for example, if a reference in a
contract to the terms is to be sufficient notice, that reference must be so
conspicuous that it could not be overlooked even in a fleeting review of the
n256 The reference must be made at the same time as the contract and is not
effective if made only once the contract is concluded. Thus, for example, a
reference on a ticket of admission to a theatre is insufficient, since the
ticket is provided only after the contract is reached.
n257 The user of standard terms must provide the other party with an opportunity to
review the standard terms, but is not required to provide the terms unsolicited.
n258 The critical moment is
[*152] when the customer makes the contractual commitment; sending the terms after
the commitment is made will ordinarily not suffice.
Section 310(1) provides that neither the notice nor the opportunity to review
requirements apply directly to contracts between businesspersons.
n260 They are subject to the general rules of the Civil Code for contracts
generally. Often in contracts between businesspersons both parties use standard
terms, which leads to the problem known in the United States as the
"battle of the forms" and governed by section 2-207 of the U.C.C.
Section 305c(1)(1) provides that surprising terms do not become part of the
contract. A term is surprising if, under the circumstances, in particular in
view of the external appearance of the contract, it is so unusual that the
other party would not expect it. Decisive is not a term's unfairness, but its
n262 A classic example of a clause prohibited as surprising is one that requires a
buyer of a product to obtain necessary service for the product from the seller.
n263 Businesspersons receive the full protection of this provision.
n264 Section 305c(2) provides that any doubts in construction of a standard term
are to be resolved against the user. Section 305b provides that individually
negotiated terms take priority over standard terms. Thus, for example, if the
parties agree on a delivery date, that agreement is not superseded by a
standard term allowing delay.
2. Content Control
The heart of German standard terms legislation is its control of the content
of standard terms.
n266 The content control consists of three parts: a general clause (section 307); a
list of terms that may be prohibited (section 308, sometimes called the
"gray list"); and a list of terms that are prohibited (section 309, sometimes called the
A court reviewing challenged terms is first to confirm that the challenged
terms have become part of the contract under sections 305 through 305c. It is
then to test them against the content controls, looking first to the prohibited
list, then to the suspect list, and only finally to the general clause.
[*153] Section 307(3) explicitly limits the content control to standard terms that
provide for changes and additions to default law. It thereby excludes from the
content control the fundamental terms of the bargain, namely performances and
n268 The limitation of the content control to standard terms is designed to insure
that the control does not itself interfere with the free market and private
The question of validity is a question of law. Fact questions and the burden of
proof play a subordinate role. The facts necessary to decide whether a term
improperly creates a material disadvantage are usually undisputed. The
determination that the disadvantage is unreasonable is purely a matter of law
and allows for no taking of proof.
n270 To a substantial extent, the evaluation can be abstract and objective.
Sections 308 and 309 list prohibited and suspect terms. The two sections are
considered to be applications of the general clause of section 307.
n271 Section 309 lists eight types of prohibited terms.
n272 It voids without evaluation terms on the list. Thus, for example, section
309(7) voids a term that excludes or limits liability for personal injury ("life, body, health") or for gross negligence.
n273 Section 308 lists thirteen types of suspect terms. It does not presume that
terms of the types listed are invalid but requires an evaluation of the
n274 For example, section 308(1) requires determination of whether a period of time
reserved to accept or reject an offer or to perform is
"inappropriately long or not sufficiently definite."
Sections 308 and 309 are intended to increase legal certainty. While few would
doubt they have made a positive contribution, the extent to which they have
done so may be debatable. Their catalogues provide fixed points of departure.
If a term falls under section 309, no further examination is necessary. If a
term that falls under section 308, it is tested under specified measures.
Section 310(1) removes standard terms used with businesspersons from the direct
controls of sections 308 and 309. However, it leaves those terms subject to
testing under the general clause of section 307. Its practical effect is to let
courts decide whether section 308 and 309 controls make sense in business
n275 In practice, courts tend to apply them anyway to
[*154] standard terms with businesspersons, by analogy.
n276 In some areas, that application is nearly automatic.
The general clause, section 307, tests standard terms not caught by sections
308 and 309. The first sentence of subsection (1) of section 307 makes invalid
(unwirksam) certain standard terms
"if, contrary to the requirement of good faith, they place the contractual
partner of the user at an unreasonable (unangemessene) disadvantage."
Application of section 307(1) to a particular standard term looks to what the
legal positions of the parties would be if there were no such term.
n278 Courts determine whether the user of the term has one-sidedly exploited
control over drafting. Courts focus on the default solution and on the change
in legal result. They are not supposed to be concerned with the situation of
n279 Courts find users have not complied with the good faith requirement when terms
are entirely one-sided and take no account of the other parties. They require
that obligations imposed by standard terms be reasonable in relation both to
the user's own interests and the burden imposed on the other party. In making
these determinations, courts rely on other fundamental principles of German law
such as necessity (Erforderlichkeit) and proportionality (Verh<um a>ltnism<um a>betaigkeit).
n280 They do not void terms simply because the terms impose burdens. For example,
they do not find that a party subject to a standard term is unreasonably
disadvantaged if the term is not very burdensome
n281 or if it imposes an obligation that would be expected of the party in good
Section 307 does not consist solely of the general clause prohibition in its
first sentence. The balance of the section guides application of the general
clause. The second sentence of the first paragraph provides that an
unreasonable disadvantage may be found in contract language that is not clear
[*155] and comprehensible. The second paragraph provides for two situations when an
unreasonable disadvantage is to be presumed. Section 307(2)(1) presumes an
unreasonable disadvantage when a standard term makes a material departure from
a fundamental principle of otherwise applicable law. Section 307(2)(2) presumes
an unreasonable disadvantage if the term takes away or limits a material
benefit that the contract is designed to provide.
n283 Sections 307(2)(1) and 307(2)(2) complement each other. In practice a clear
distinction is not always made between them.
n284 Section 307(2)(1), which focuses on the law, is considered clearer and more
predictable than section 307(2)(2), which focuses on the contract itself.
n285 Section 307(2)(1)does not presume an unreasonable disadvantage merely because
the standard term changes the outcome provided by law.
n286 It requires that the change be fundamental; that the standard term displace a
material interest of the other party or of the society at large protected by
n287 Section 307(2)(2) typically is used to test liability limitations and warranty
exclusions that are not otherwise prohibited by sections 308 and 309 - for
example, a liability limitation for ordinary negligence.
In the United States there is a certain resignation that a trade-off between
"certainty of contract and fairness of terms" is necessary in the control of standard terms.
n289 In Germany, there is no such resignation. There the control of standard terms
has come a long way from its beginnings in a couple of general clauses. Under
German law there now exists what might be termed a matrix of content control.
It provides numerous orientation points for those
[*156] who would judge the validity of standard terms. Sections 308 and 309 provide
relatively fixed points. Section 307 guides its own application, which has
passed from general abstract statements to the dominance of
"case law" in concrete, specific situations.
n290 Precedents and commentary can now fill in the spaces.
The number of precedents and publications in the area is enormous. The German
Supreme Court alone has decided more than 1500 cases.
n291 Not a month goes by without an article on standard terms. Books devoted to
standard terms appear frequently. These books have different approaches to
coverage. Some are detailed commentaries on the law. Some are practical; others
are theoretical. Dissertations examine particular legal aspects or effects in
particular sectors of the economy. Practical guides profile particular
industries: a 395-page tome for the construction trade is now in its ninth
n292 And the construction trade is just one of many industries to have its own
volume. There are even guides for the general public. One, a
widely-distributed, 450-page popular paperback, now in its fifth edition,
promises to help the general public in
"drafting and controlling of the
n293 These guides could not be produced if the law did not provide predictability.
Professional commentaries adopt a matrix approach to their discussions of
content control. First, they give explanations of each of the three principal
statutory controls, now sections 307-309. That is the usual approach of a
German statutory commentary. But then, deviating from the usual, they catalogue
specific terms across all three controls categorizing the terms either by their
legal nature (e.g., choice-of-law clauses, mandatory writing clauses) or by the
business sector in which they are used (e.g., construction contracts, hospital
n294 This matrix permits precision in identifying when terms are likely to be valid
and when they are not.
As does its American counterpart, German standard terms law provides that
impermissible terms are unenforceable.
n295 That remedy recently received
[*157] new teeth when the European Court of Justice held that national courts of the
European Union must of their own motion examine whether material contract terms
are unfair in actions against consumers.
Unlike American law, however, German standard terms law, ever since the
legislature first took up the issue in the 1970s, has been concerned with what
the European Commission later called
"positive enforcement," i.e., measures designed to prevent the use of unfair terms. When the
legislature first took up a standard terms law, it considered several
alternative approaches to enforcement. One widely discussed proposal called for
"preventive administrative control." Parties who wished to use standard terms would file terms for review and
approval with a new administrative agency.
n297 In the end, however, the legislature rejected every form of administrative
Instead of adopting an administrative oversight, at the last moment, the
legislature introduced a novel procedural solution: the institutional action,
i.e., the Verbandsklage.
n299 Consumer groups and trade associations have the right to bring suit against
those who use or recommend use of unlawful standard terms.
n300 These institutional suits exist not to protect individual customers or users
of impermissible standard terms, but the contracting public generally from
application of impermissible terms.
n301 Originally a part of the Standard Terms Statute, since January 1, 2002 that
right of action is now governed by the new Law of Actions for Injunctions for
Violations of Consumer and Other Law (Gesetz
<um u>ber Unterlassungsklagen bei Verbraucherrechts-und anderen
[*158] Verst<um o>betaen [UklaG]), hereafter referred to as the
"Injunctions Act." The institutional action is Germany's closest analogue to an American class
Section 1 of the Injunctions Act provides that whoever uses or recommends the
use in commerce of standard terms that are invalid under Civil Code sections
307 to 309 is subject to an injunctive action to cease and desist. Sections 2
and 3 of the Injunctions Act provide that qualifying consumer groups, trade
associations and chambers of commerce officially recognized by the European
Union or by the German federal government are authorized to bring suit. Trial
courts, however, spend no time in determining whether a particular association
is qualified. Section 4 provides that administrative authorities are to
maintain lists of qualified organizations and update them regularly.
Most institutional legal complaints do not require judicial involvement. They
"warning" (Abmahnung) procedure of German competition law. Under this procedure a
potential plaintiff sends a formal letter demanding that the user of the terms
cease-and-desist. The demand letter must include the terms claimed to be
invalid and the basis for the claim of invalidity. If the user accepts the
demand, the user makes a legally binding declaration that it is ceasing and
desisting from use of the terms (Unterlassungserkl<um a>rung). Typically in such a declaration the user commits to treat such terms in
its contracts with third parties as invalid and agrees to pay a penalty for
each later use of a prohibited or comparable term (in cases known to the
author, about . 1,000 per term, with a maximum of about . 2,500 to . 9,000 per
contract). If the recipient of the demand letter rejects the demand, the
plaintiff may then sue and, if the plaintiff wins, recover the costs of the
n303 The cost shifting provisions of section 5 of the Injunction Act have the
effect of making use of the warning procedure practically if not legally
Section 6 of the Injunctions Act provides that plaintiffs ordinarily must sue
in the defendant's home jurisdiction. Of importance for American companies,
however, section 6 provides further that if the defendant is not located in
Germany, the plaintiff may sue in any district where the defendant uses the
invalid terms. Section 7 provides as an additional sanction that an eventual
judgment is to be published.
Sections 9 and 11 of the Injunctions Act give the institutional action its real
teeth. Section 9 requires that a judgment against the defendant must recite the
invalid term, identify the type of transaction in which its use by the
defendant is prohibited, and prohibit the use of terms having the same content.
In ordinary civil litigation, a judgment has effect only for the parties to the
suit. But section 11 of the Injunctions Act changes the normal rule and gives
[*159] the judgment a broader effect. Terms found invalid in such an action are
invalid with respect to all of the users' customers.
n305 Those customers may rely on the judgment. Defendants who continue to use terms
held invalid are subject under section 890 of the Code of Civil Procedure to
fines of up to . 250,000 and imprisonment for up to two years.
Consumer associations initiate many actions against standard terms. In Berlin
and Stuttgart, two consumer organizations are reported each to give several
hundred warnings each year.
n307 Not counting cases resolved at the warning stage, in a little more than
twenty-four years, consumer associations brought 3523 suits.
n308 Consumer associations account for more than half of all reported cases
applying the Standard Terms Statute.
n309 Their suits can have a broad impact. In one recent case, a consumer
association successfully challenged thirteen terms in a standard form
recommended by the automobile industry to new car dealers.
Consumer associations might bring even more injunction actions were it not for
the costs of such actions and their litigation risks.
n311 To help associations bring more actions, the European Union provides the
associations with funds.
n312 The normal rule of German civil procedure - that the loser pays - helps defray
costs when associations win, but exposes them to risks when they lose. To
reduce the discouraging effect of the rule, it has been modified for
association actions. The law limits the maximum nominal amount in dispute in
such cases to . 250,000. In practice, the usual amount is much lower: it ranges
from . 1500 to . 2500 per clause in dispute.
Critics of the institutional action believe it to be only a transition measure.
They observe that it serves not a private institutional interest, but a public
interest. Civil procedure, however, is designed for settlement of private
disputes. For example, it gives parties complete right to continue or abandon
their lawsuits at will. According to this view, the kind of public interest
litigation that the Injunctions Act permits would be better conducted in an
D. The E.U. Directive: The Contract Model Meets the Consumer Model
The German Standard Terms Statute by all accounts had a profound influence on
the Unfair Terms Directive.
n315 In popular perception the directive was considered to be narrower, since it
applied only to consumer contracts, while the German statute applied to
n316 Yet for all the similarities between the two laws,
n317 the directive as originally proposed turned out to be something of a challenge
to the German contract model.
Alongside the contract model of German law, there is another approach that
presses for favor in Europe. This approach was fully realized, or nearly so, in
the initial draft of the Unfair Terms Directive, but only partially, if at all,
in the text actually adopted. The alternative approach might be called the
"consumer protection model." The contract model applies to contracts generally without limitation as to
personal characteristics of the contracting parties. The content controls it
imposes are abstract and generalizing. The consumer protection model, on the
other hand, is limited to consumer contracts. Its content controls are
personalized and particularized.
n319 The contract model protects freedom of contract; the consumer protection model
n320 The Unfair Terms Directive as finally adopted is a compromise between the two
The Commission's first draft of the Unfair Terms Directive anticipated a
comprehensive control of all consumer contracts without regard to whether the
terms appeared in standard forms whether they were individually negotiated, or
whether they concerned the fundamental substance of the contract. The draft was
anathema to German scholars. They contended nothing less than that the proposal
would cause a
"considerable dilution of the principle of a free market economy, which is
safeguarded by the EEC Treaty."
n322 It would bring about a
"drastic restriction" in private autonomy
[*161] and would wholly upset freedom of contract.
n323 The German standard terms law did not threaten private autonomy, they argued,
but honored it. The predicate for invoking the German content control was the
absence of agreement between the parties as to the content of the terms. When
standard terms are presented unilaterally and are not negotiated, the
legitimacy of their claim to be enforced is slight. The principle of freedom of
contract counsels not their free application, but close scrutiny. Where the
parties actually negotiate a term, then the principle of private autonomy
demands recognizing their choice.
German scholars criticized the draft directive for its control of individual
contracts. They argued that the directive should not apply to
"individually negotiated terms;" the parties' own negotiations should be recognized to safeguard freedom of
contract. Similarly, they urged that the directive not apply to the
"principal obligations" of the contract; in a free market economy, the market should determine the
price-performance relationship. German scholars stressed that control of
standard terms is different from control of individually negotiated terms.
Above all, control of standard terms can be
"abstract," that is, it does not examine the particular circumstances of the individual
n325 Control of individually negotiated terms, on the other hand, requires
consideration not only of the specific term in question, but of the entire
contract and of all the circumstances of its conclusion. Standard terms thus
are suitable for abstract control procedures involving third parties such as
consumer groups, whereas individually negotiated terms can be reviewed only in
the course of a concrete legal action between the parties.
At first the Commission was reluctant to embrace the German scholars'
proposals. But the scholars persisted. Practically on the eve of adoption, in
[*162] fall of 1992, the Commission largely gave in and changed the text of the
Unfair Terms Directive.
n327 As adopted, paragraph 1 of Article 3 excludes from the directive's application
terms that have been
n328 Paragraph 2 provides that
"pre-formulated standard contracts" are not individually negotiated.
n329 Article 4, paragraph 2, provides that findings of unfairness shall
"relate neither to the definition of the main subject matter of the contract nor
to the adequacy of the price and remuneration."
n330 With these revisions, German scholars pronounced that the directive preserved
the principle of party autonomy as the
"Basic Institution of all European legal systems."
Even with the changes, German scholars recognized that differences in outlook
remained. The directive's orientation remains consumer protection; the German
law's orientation is general contract law.
n332 Germany had no choice but to implement the directive. The question was how to
do it. German scholars considered two possibilities: amending the old law or
adopting a new one to exist parallel to the old.
n333 The legislature looked only at the former possiblility and considered no draft
legislation that would have created a new law.
n334 The close similarity between the Unfair Terms Directive and the Standard Terms
Statute counseled against implementing the directive through a statute separate
from the Standard Terms Statute.
n335 Restricting the scope of the Standard Terms Statute also did not make sense,
since the directive itself set only a minimum standard and explicitly allows
Member States to provide protection that reaches further. In Germany, that
additional protection consists of the incorporation control and the protection
The German legislature held fast to the German law and took a minimalist
solution that the existing law
"should be retained so far as possible," since, in its view, the German Standard Terms Statute was largely in
compliance even without revision.
n336 The legislature passed relatively minor changes. It modified the conflicts of
law rule and added a new section
[*163] for consumer contracts. That section, now Civil Code section 310(3), applies
the content control to certain consumer contracts that otherwise exceptionally
would not be covered.
Section 310(3) makes yet another change that may seem minor to an outside
observer, but illuminates the differences in concepts at stake. It now requires
that in consumer contracts,
"when deciding whether there has been unreasonable detriment under sections
307(1) and 307(2) the circumstances surrounding the conclusion of the contract
must also be taken into account." German scholars vary in how significant they view the change,
n338 but all recognize what this provision means. No longer is the standard terms
law exclusively a shield against imposition of improper contract terms, but now
it is also a protection of consumers in their typical position of inferiority.
The Unfair Terms Directive and the German standard terms law are both subject
to broader European law developments. Further E.U. action in the consumer area
is likely and might result either in changes in the directive itself or in
adopting legislation that would prevail over the directive. The latter has
already occurred in the Guarantees Directive, which obviated any need for
control of consumer warranties under Unfair Terms law by substituting mandatory
Whether the Unfair Terms Directive will be revised to reverse the compromises
of fall 1992 and introduce the consumer protection model is unclear at the time
of this writing. At the July 1999 conference sponsored by the Commission there
was interest in extending the directive to principal obligations as some Member
States had already done.
n341 While the Commission in its April 2000 Report did not formally endorse such a
step, it raised the possibility and observed that no problems in practice had
arisen in those Member States that had taken this step.
n342 The Economic and Social Committee was not so restrained. It recommended that
the directive be
[*164] amended to include individually negotiated terms and the main subject matter
of the contract.
E. The American License in Germany
American standard terms are no strangers to Germany. It used to be that
American businesses operating in Germany simply translated their U.S. terms
into German and handed them over to their German customers unchanged. Today
that still happens more frequently than one would like to think.
n344 But such foolishness requires a near reckless lack of attention to businesses
located in Germany. However, with ever more American companies doing business
worldwide on the Internet, it is understandable that licensors located in the
United States and accustomed to doing business at home offer products and
services without thinking about foreign law.
Nor are American standard terms strangers to German controls. Not long after
the Internet became available in Germany, German consumer groups challenged the
Internet terms of major U.S. service providers America Online and CompuServe.
The former agreed to a cease-and-desist declaration; the latter suffered a
default judgment. In its declaration, America Online agreed to stop using
nineteen terms in its standard agreement and promised to pay DM 2,000 (now
about . 1,000) each time it uses one of the same terms or a term having
comparable content, with a maximum of DM 19,000 (now about . 10,000) per
contract. CompuServe, if it uses again any of twenty-three terms in its former
standard agreement, is subject to a civil fine of up to DM 500,000 (now about .
250,000) and its Chief Executive Officer to civil commitment for contempt of
court for up to six months. The same association of consumer groups also took
on Microsoft Corporation's license for its Windows 2000 operating system.
Microsoft also agreed to a binding cease-and-desist declaration. As a result
these three American firms are committed not to use in Germany many terms that
are similar to terms that they continue to use in the United States. These
terms govern such matters as: liability
[*165] limitations, warranty disclaimers, licensee obligation to indemnify licensor,
unlimited licensee obligation, acceptance of incorporation of other terms,
choice-of-law and forum, retention of unilateral right to change terms accepted
by subsequent use, agreement that additional terms be incorporated, restriction
on right of licensee to terminate, retention of payment on termination, and
legal characterization of relationship.
Other American licensors likewise are in for unpleasant surprises if they fail
to pay attention to German law. If a licensee is a consumer, almost certainly
the license is subject to German standard terms law.
n347 If the licensee is a businessperson, a more complicaeted conflicts of law
analysis is necessary to determine which controls apply.
n348 Yet, in the case of a license to a
[*166] businessperson, an attentive licensor can make an effective choice of American
law, probably even in a standard term license.
"mass-market license" under UCITA
n350 ordinarily constitutes standard terms in the sense of Civil Code section
n351 If the licensee is not a businessperson, under section 305(2) the license's
standard terms become part of the contract only if the licensee is expressly
advised of them and is given the opportunity to review them. That review must
be at or before the conclusion of the license.
n352 If the licensee is a businessperson, then the stringent requirements of
section 305(2) do not apply and the laxer rules of the Civil Code governing
conclusion of contracts generally govern. Under those rules the reference to
the standard terms might be implied by conduct.
n353 A procedure whereby the licensee is given access to the terms before
committing to the license by clicking ("click-wrap") should be sufficient, at least if the average customer cannot click through
without having noticed and decided whether to take the opportunity to review
"Browse-wrap," i.e., a notice given by a site that by using it, the user agrees to certain
license terms, is said not to comply with the law's requirements.
n355 The individual terms are subject to the other incorporation controls, i.e.,
individually negotiated terms take priority (section 305b), surprising terms
are invalid (section 305c(1)), and ambiguous terms are construed against the
licensor (section 305c(2)). Use restrictions are not ordinarily surprising.
2. Content Control
With the exception of licenses between businesspersons that include an
effective choice of non-German law, UCITA licenses between American
[*167] licensors and German licensees are subject to German content controls.
Application of those controls depends upon the nature of the software license
involved, i.e., how it is classified under German law and whether it is with a
businessperson or not.
Software can fall into any one of three different classes of contract under
German law. A software license where the license term is unlimited is known as
a Standardlizenz ("standard license") and is treated as a sales contract (Kaufvertrag). If the license term is for
a limited time period (and typically, although not necessarily, there are
recurring payments), then the license is known as a Dauerlizenz ("duration license") and is treated as a lease (Mietvertrag). Finally, if the software is
developed as part of the agreement, then the license is treated as part of a
service contract (Werkvertrag).
n356 UCITA mass market licenses are usually standard licenses in the German sense,
and that is the only variety treated here.
Except for separately negotiated terms under section 305b and terms respecting
fundamental performances under section 307(3), licenses with consumers are
subject to testing first under the prohibited list of Section 309, then under
the list of suspect terms under section 308, then finally under the general
clause of section 307. In the case of licenses with businesspersons, sections
308 and 309 have no formal applicability, but in practice, application of the
general clause of Section 307 usually follows the application of sections 308
The introductory language to the prohibited list of section 309 makes explicit
that it assumes that a contract term reviewed is one about which the parties
might agree otherwise, at least in negotiated terms. The legislature added this
language when it integrated the Standard Terms Statute into the Civil Code. It
was necessary to take account of the changes in the civil law made to comply
with the E.U. Guarantees Directive, which requires that many aspects of
consumer contracts - among them warranties - be made mandatory and not subject
to modification by agreement.
3. Warranty Disclaimers and Limitations of Remedy
Pursuant to the E.U. Guarantees Directive, most issues of consumer warranties
and remedies are now mandatory law. Review under standard terms law is
n358 American standard licenses with German consumers must comply with this
[*168] Warranties and limitations of remedy in licenses with businesspersons remain
subject to testing under standard terms law. Formally, this is only through the
general clause of section 307.
n360 Practically, the extensive provisions in section 309(8)(b) (reprinted in the
Appendix) governing warranties are likely - but not necessarily - to find
n361 Subdivision (aa) provides a general rule that a term which excludes warranty
claims completely or for relevant parts of defective products is invalid.
n362 Subdivisions (bb) through (dd) govern terms that limit remedies to repair or
replacement: (bb) invalidates such terms unless they expressly reserve the
right, should repair or replacement fail, to cancel the contract or to reduce
the contract price; Subdivision (cc) precludes a user from imposing costs of
repair or replacement on the other party; Subdivision (dd) prevents the user
from setting certain pre-conditions on repair or replacement. Subdivisions (ee)
and (ff) restrict use of terms imposing deadlines on claims limitation:
subdivision (ee) provides that notice requirements for non-obvious defects may
not be shorter than the applicable statute of limitations for claims.
Subdivision (ff) provides that the legally required statute of limitation may
not be reduced to less than one year.
4. Damage Exclusions and Limitations
The same provision of the Civil Code that makes warranty provisions in
consumer contracts mandatory and withdraws them from disposition by the parties
explicitly excludes from its coverage damage exclusions and limitations. The
provision provides that they shall continue to be reviewed
[*169] under the standard terms law.
n364 The prohibited list of section 309 governs two types of damage exclusions and
limitations. Section 309(7)(a) invalidates standard terms that exclude or limit
liability for negligent injury to
"life, person or health." Section 309(7)(b) invalidates standard terms that exclude or limit liability
for gross negligence or intentional violation of contractual obligations. These
same restrictions apply to licenses with businesspersons through application of
the general clause.
n365 Neither section 309 nor section 308 governs limitations and exclusions of
liability for simple negligence. That does not, however, permit the conclusion
that they are always permissible.
Standard terms that exclude or limit liability for simple negligence, or for
other grounds not covered in section 309(7), are subject to review under the
general clause of section 307(2). This principally occurs under section
307(2)(2) which can lead to invalidation of a term that
"restricts essential rights or duties resulting from the nature of the contract
in such a manner that there is a risk that the purpose of the contract will not
be achieved." As the decision of the German Supreme Court of October 24, 2001 holds, the
"whether the exclusion of liability leads to evisceration of those contractual
duties (so-called cardinal duties), which originally made possible the
performance of the contract and on the fulfillment of which the contract
partner trusted and may rely."
n366 It is debated whether an exclusion of liability for damages for typical
computer software problems, such as data loss, or the reduction of disk
capacity or processing speed, would fulfill that test.
n367 Rather than try to identify which duties a court may later determine to be
"cardinal," typical disclaimers accept liability for intention, gross negligence, and
negligence affecting cardinal duties, excluding all other liability.
n368 Alternatively, or additionally, licenses may limit liability. Limitations on
the amounts of damages for ordinary negligence are generally permissible. In
the case of ordinary negligence affecting cardinal duties, however, the amount
of the limitation provided must correspond to the foreseeable amount of
damages. Limitations on damages may also restrict liability to direct damage
and exclude indirect damage or untypical consequential damages.
n369 In either
[*170] case, such a term is invalid if it includes damages caused by intent or gross
5. Copy, Use, and Transfer Restrictions
Copyright Statute (Gesetz
<um u>ber Urheberrecht und Verwandte Schurtzrechte), in particular sections 69a to
69g governing software, impose certain mandatory requirements affecting
standard terms limiting copying or use. Section 69d(2) permits licensees to
make back-up copies necessary for future use. A standard term that required the
licensee not to make an archival copy, but to rely on such a copy held by the
licensor, was held invalid as not recognizing the licensee's interest in having
available an archival copy even if the licensor should go out of business.
Section 69d(3) permits licensees to observe and test the functioning of
software. Section 69e permits licensees to de-compile software when such
"indispensable to obtain the information necessary to achieve the
interoperability of an independently created computer program with other
programs," provided that certain conditions are met. Section 69g(2) provides that
contract terms that contradict any of these three sections are invalid.
Other copy, use, and transfer restrictions are subject to the general clause of
section 307. The
Copyright Statute provides the measure against which departures from the statutory
scheme are judged.
n371 Section 69d provides that unless the parties provide otherwise, copying and
translating programs do not require authorization
"where they are necessary for the use of the computer program by any person
entitled to use a copy of the program in accordance with its intended purpose,
including for error correction."
n372 So-called CPU clauses that restrict use to a single computer constitute an
unreasonable disadvantage, since they prevent licensees from updating their
hardware without having to pay additional charges.
n373 Restrictions that limit licensees of standard licenses from sub-licensing the
software are effective. Restrictions that prohibit such licensees from
transferring such software and all their rights to a third party, however, are
n374 As a result of the close supervision of terms, it is said that strict license
terms in practice often have only minimal effectiveness.
An American licensor is likely to discover that it has violated German
standard terms law when a consumer association sends it a warning letter
[*171] demanding that it cease using unlawful terms or face penalties. The American
licensor will then scurry to its American attorney, who hopefully will be
well-versed enough to contact a German attorney to confirm that, yes, indeed, a
lawsuit and penalties could follow a failure to comply. The German attorney
will point out that section 6 of the Injunctions Act permits a German plaintiff
to sue a defendant not domiciled in Germany in any district where the defendant
uses the unlawful terms. The cease-and-desist declaration a defendant must sign
not only will subject it to penalties for using these terms again, but will
also prohibit use of similar terms and invalidate all such existing terms. Thus
an American licensor cannot blithely assume that it can use prohibited terms
free of risk. Should that licensor nevertheless use the terms, it runs the risk
that in seeking expansive exclusions of liability, it may fail to take
advantage of those limitations on liability that would have been available to
National laws that implement the Unfair Terms Directive are a reality
throughout Europe. Americans - especially those doing business on the Internet
- should take account of them. With the impending enlargement of the European
Union, American standard terms will be subject to scrutiny from Ireland to
Poland and from Malta to Finland. Failure to revise American standard terms
accordingly could have serious consequences. There is every reason to believe
that many standard terms that are common in the United States are unlawful in
n376 While this article has not attempted a comparative catalogue of such invalid
terms, a future work that does so would be useful.
Functioning systems for control of unfair standard terms exist in Europe. These
systems are more ambitious than the present-day American system.
n377 Their very existence challenges complacency with current American law. Their
existence undermines the two principal arguments raised to support American
law: there is no problem, and no system could better balance the competing
interests of certainty of contract and fairness of terms. Obviously, our
European colleagues think that there is a problem, and they have taken action
to deal with it. The apparent success of the German contract model
[*172] suggests that there may not be a necessary trade-off between control of unfair
terms and predictable contracting.
If the American system is less ambitious than its European counterparts and is
largely limited to striking down terms that
"shock the conscience,"
n378 it has not been by design. When American legislatures enacted U.C.C. section
2-302, they adopted a provision that its drafters hoped would allow American
courts to develop
n380 contract terms. The German Supreme Court's development of such machinery from
essentially the same starting point largely confirms the vision of the drafters
of the U.C.C.
n381 In the United States there has been no national debate about whether the
present restrained application of U.C.C. section 2-302 is preferred. The
closest that the United States has come to such a debate is the ongoing
struggle over reform of the U.C.C. That is a toss-up so far. Business interests
blocked the original revision of U.C.C. Revised Article 2 - Sales, while
consumer groups blocked U.C.C. Proposed Article 2B - Licenses and are
How did the German legal system - beginning from a very similar starting point
- develop a considerably more ambitious review of standard terms than did the
American legal system? A number of explanations come to mind. Surely larger
social and political factors were at work. As has been shown, in Germany there
was a national consensus to limit oppressive terms.
n382 That consensus was rooted in views about society, the individual, and the role
of government in society. Where an American might see control of standard terms
as government meddling in relations between private parties and as a limitation
on freedom of contract, a German might see the choice not to intervene as
government toleration of exploitation of one private party by another, and
government complicity in that exploitation - by providing contract law
upholding, and a legal system enforcing, form contracts.
But there are other, more strictly legal explanations for how the German legal
system, from a similar starting point, was able to develop an ambitious program
of standard terms control and the American legal system was not. In the area of
standard terms, the German legal system has limited authoritative sources of
the law, has furnished abstract definitions of unlawful terms, and has provided
for proactive enforcement of controls. In contrast, the American legal system
has multiplied the sources of the law, has individualized the inquiry, and has
limited enforcement to retrospective invalidation of challenged terms.
In both the German and the American legal systems the starting point for
development of control of unfair terms was application of general clauses by
judges. Yet the German legal system had an advantage from the start: it has one
Supreme Court that could and did develop and direct evolution of judge-
[*173] made law. German standard terms law is federal law. The pronouncements of its
single federal Supreme Court are authoritative.
n383 In the American legal system, on the other hand, although the Uniform
Commercial Code provides one uniform rule in the general clause in section
2-302, fifty different courts are the sources for interpretation and
application of it. It is no wonder that there is no authoritative statement of
Moreover, already more than a quarter of a century ago, while the United States
was struggling with judges applying that single general clause, the German
legislature chose to build a statutory structure on that judge-made law
foundation. That new structure provided additional authoritative points for
application of unfair terms control, while maintaining a general clause to
respond to the need for flexibility. In contrast, American scholars, including
Llewellyn, have mostly assumed that control of unfair terms is necessarily a
task for judge-made law with little room for statute law.
n385 Obviously the apparent success of the German Standard Terms Statute challenges
that assumption. It demonstrates that statute law can facilitate control of
Another reason that German control of unfair terms has been able to develop to
be more robust than its American counterpart is that it is abstract rather than
personalized. The German system of control was purposely limited to control of
standard terms so that it could provide standard solutions to standard
problems. Inquiry into all the individual circumstances of particular parties
is not necessary or desired. In this way the work of courts in finding facts is
reduced. But still more important is that abstract application
"concretizes" the general prohibitions into groups of cases and types of terms. It
facilitates a universal application of the resulting control. Accordingly, the
German legal system rejects the less concrete consumer model. The German legal
system avoids control of the main subject of the contract and of individually
negotiated terms for fear of infringing on the parties' freedom of contract and
interfering with their presumptively sound economic decisions.
What the European Commission calls
n386 explains how the German legal system has been more successful than its
American counterpart in deterring use of unfair terms. An American court's
decision finding a term unconscionable cannot do more than invalidate the use
of the specific term in a particular contract. It thus has little effect beyond
that individual case.
n387 A German court's decision, on the other hand, can not only
[*174] invalidate specific terms in a particular contract, it can compel users to
cease using those terms and comparable terms in all similar contracts. Further,
German law simplifies these procedures so that consumer groups can achieve
these results without having to go to court.
Even if the German and American legal systems have gone their separate ways in
controlling unfair terms following similar beginnings, there is still much for
American jurists to learn from European experiences as they contemplate how to
make American law the best it can be for American conditions. This article has
discussed two models for control of unfair terms in Europe: the contract model
of German law and the consumer protection model of the first draft of the
Unfair Terms Directive. It has shown the German contract model in practice as
one example of standard terms laws at work in the European Union. Future
studies of the law in the other fourteen Member States would disclose
variations on these models and possibly different models. Consideration of
those models by American jurists could inform the American debate over unfair
terms both with respect to whether a farther-reaching control is desirable and,
if desirable, how best to implement it.
Even without change in American law, application of present U.C.C. section
2-302 would benefit from attention to European experiences and particularly to
the conceptual clarity of the German contract model. The essential discovery of
the German contract model - that when standard terms are involved there are two
transactions, the dickered deal and the supplementary standard terms - has long
been known in America. According to Llewellyn,
"Rooted in sense, history, and simplicity, it is an answer which could occur to
n389 The German contract model distinguishes separately negotiated terms from
standard terms. In the former, it defers to the parties' choice and the
principle of party autonomy. In the latter, it finds little exercise of party
autonomy and intervenes to protect freedom of contract. It also provides a
rationale, i.e., preventing abuse of the freedom of contract-drafting, for that
The German contract model disentangles rather than confounds incorporation and
content controls. It recognizes the two as separate issues and imposes separate
expectations of each. In the case of incorporation control, it insists that
users provide other parties with an opportunity to review the terms. In the
case of content control, it rejects the idea, common in the United States, that
an opportunity to review can substitute for deficient terms. German parties do
not have to read the standard terms to be safeguarded from overreaching.
The German contract model is not content to place confidence in a single
general clause to control content. American attempts to write a suitable
general clause for Revised Article 2 - Sales suggest that such a task is
virtually unachievable. Instead, the German contract model guides the content
[*175] control of the general clause with presumptions and supplements it with
"black" lists that treat explicitly specific types of terms. Thus it has successfully
concretized control in a way that has eluded American courts.
American law already has concepts similar to those found in German law. For
example, it distinguishes
"procedural unconscionability" from
"substantive unconscionability," and negotiated contracts from standard terms (or adhesion) contracts. The
German experience suggests a benefit in courts using those concepts more
consistently. American courts, even without legislative action, could do that
in their application of existing U.C.C. 2-302. Other important aspects of the
German contract model might require legislation. For example, legislation would
probably be necessary to add
"gray" lists or to a create a more proactive, deterring control along the lines of
n391 Where legislation is required, American experiences in revising the U.C.C.
caution against underestimating the difficulties of reaching a solution capable
n392 Yet the work of the New Jersey Law Revision Commission shows that the
possibility of standard terms legislation is not beyond conception.
Reform begins with the conception that things can be otherwise. Comparative
inquiry is one of the best ways there is to broaden the scope of the possible.
Reform of existing law is limited by one's ability to conceive of alternatives.
Through examination of how other legal systems treat similar problems, one can
not only conceive of new alternatives, one can see how they work. One need not
adopt or even adapt foreign models to learn from them; comparative examination
puts one's own law in a critical light.
For more than forty years the United States has denied itself the benefit of
foreign experiences with standard terms. For the last dozen years two of the
most influential organizations in American law and legions of lawyers have
looked at the controversial issue of unfair terms in standard form contracts
with no one systematically studying - indeed, with hardly anyone even noting -
that a trading bloc comparable in size to the United States and a major trading
partner is itself addressing the very same issues and is applying its laws to
Americans. This Article shows that in Europe the scholarly and legislative
discussion of standard terms has always had a comparative component to it and
is better for it.
n394 The attempted reforms of the Uniform Commercial Code undertaken to date could
have benefited from the European experiences had only those reforms paid
attention to those experiences. Today, thanks to global electronic commerce,
European and other foreign standard terms law are on American laptops. And
American licenses are on
[*176] European laptops. The United States can afford to ignore foreign law no longer.
Standard terms provisions of the German Civil Code effective January 1, 2002,
as translated by Geoffrey Thomas and Gerhard Dannemann.
[Reprinted by Permission] Section 2: Shaping contractual obligations by means
of standard terms
305 Incorporation of standard terms
n397 into the contract
(1) Standard terms are all contractual terms pre-established for a multitude of
contracts which one party to the contract (the user) presents to the other
party upon the conclusion of the contract. It is irrelevant whether the
provisions appear as a separate part of a contract or are included in the
contractual document itself, how extensive they are, what script is used for
them, or what form the contract takes. Contractual terms do not constitute
standard terms where they have been individually negotiated between the parties.
(2) Standard terms are incorporated into the contract only if, during the
conclusion of the contract, the user
1. expressly draws the other party's attention to them, or if, on account of
the way in which the contract is concluded, an express reference to them is
unreasonably difficult, he draws his attention to them by means of a clearly
visible sign at the place where the contract is concluded and
2. gives the other party, in a reasonable manner that also appropriately takes
account of any physical handicap of the other party discernible by the user,
the possibility of gaining knowledge of their content, and if the other party
agrees that they are to apply.
(3) Subject to observance of the requirements set out in subsection (2) above,
the parties may agree in advance that particular standard terms will apply to a
particular type of legal transaction.
305a Incorporation in special cases
Even if the requirements set out in 305(2) Nos 1 and 2 are not observed, if the
other party agrees to their application:
1. railway tariffs and regulations adopted with the approval of the competent
transport authority or on the basis of international conventions and terms of
transport, authorised in accordance with the Passenger Transport Act, of trams,
trolley buses and motor vehicles in scheduled services are incorporated into
the transport contract;
2. standard terms published in the official journal of the regulatory authority
for Post and Telecommunications and kept available in the user's business
premises are incorporated
(a) into contracts of carriage concluded away from business premises by the
posting of items in post boxes,
(b) into contracts for telecommunications, information and other services that
are provided directly and in one go by means of remote communication and during
the provision of a telecommunications service, if it is unreasonably difficult
to make the standard terms available to the other party before conclusion of
[*178] 305b Precedence of individually negotiated terms
Individually negotiated terms take precedence over standard terms.
305c Surprising and ambiguous clauses
(1) Provisions in standard terms which in the circumstances, in particular in
view of the outward appearance of the contract, are so unusual that the
contractual partner of the user could not be expected to have reckoned with
them, do not form part of the contract.
(2) In case of doubt, standard terms are interpreted against the user.
306 Legal consequences of non-incorporation and invalidity
(1) If all or some standard terms have not become part of the contract or are
invalid, the remainder of the contract continues to be valid.
(2) Where provisions have not become part of the contract or are invalid, the
content of the contract is determined by the statutory rules.
(3) The contract is invalid if one party would suffer unreasonable hardship if
he were bound by the contract even after the amendment provided for in
subsection (2) above.
306a No circumvention
The rules in this section apply even if they are circumvented by other
307 Content Control
(1) Provisions in standard terms are invalid if, contrary to the requirement of
good faith, they place the contractual partner of the user at an unreasonable
disadvantage. An unreasonable disadvantage may also result from the fact that
the provision is not clear and comprehensible.
(2) In case of doubt, an unreasonable disadvantage is assumed if a provision
1. can not be reconciled with essential basic principles of the statutory rule
from which it deviates, or
2. restricts essential rights or duties resulting from the nature of the
contract in such a manner that there is a risk that the purpose of the contract
will not be achieved.
(3) Subsections (1) and (2) above, and 308 and 309 apply only to provisions in
standard terms by means of which provisions derogating from legal rules or
provisions supplementing those rules are agreed. Other provisions may be
invalid under subsection (1), sentence 2, above, in conjunction with subsection
(1), sentence 1, above.
308 Clauses whose validity depends on an evaluation
In standard terms the following terms, in particular, are invalid:
1. (period for acceptance or performance)
a provision by which the user reserves the right to an unreasonably long or
inadequately specified period for acceptance or rejection of an offer or for
performance; this does not include
[*179] reservation of the right to perform only after expiry of the period for
revocation or return under 355(1) and (2) and 356;
2. (additional period for performance)
a provision by which the user, in derogation from legislative provisions,
reserves the right to an unreasonably long or inadequately specified additional
period within which to perform;
3. (right of termination)
the stipulation of a right for the user to free himself, without an objectively
justified reason specified in the contract, of his duty to perform; this does
not apply to a contract for the performance of a recurring obligation;
4. (right of amendment)
the stipulation of the user's right to alter or depart from the promised
performance, unless, taking into account the user's interests, the stipulation
to alter or depart from performance is reasonable for the other party;
5. (fictitious declarations)
a provision whereby a declaration of the user's contractual partner is deemed
or not deemed to have been made by him if he does or fails to do a particular
a) he is allowed a reasonable period within which to make an express
b) the user undertakes to draw to his attention at the beginning of the period
the particular significance of his conduct; this does not apply to contracts in
which the whole of Part B of the contracting rules for award of public works
contracts is incorporated;
6. (fictional receipt)
a provision which provides that a declaration by the user of particular
importance is deemed to have been received by the other party;
7. (winding-up of contracts)
a provision by which, in the event that one of the parties to the contract
terminates the contract or gives notice to terminate it, the user can demand
a) unreasonably high remuneration for the utilisation or use of a thing or a
right or for performance made, or
b) unreasonably high reimbursement of expenditure;
8. (unavailability of the object of performance)
a stipulation permitted under 3. above of the user's right to free himself of
his obligation to perform the contract if the object of the performance is not
available, unless the user agrees
a) to inform the other party immediately of the unavailability, and
b) immediately to refund counter-performance by that party.
309 Clauses whose invalidity is not subject to any evaluation
Even where derogation from the statutory provisions is permissible, the
following are invalid in standard terms:
1. (price increases at short notice)
a provision which provides for an increase in the remuneration for goods or
services that are to be supplied within four months of the conclusion of the
contract; this does not apply to goods or services supplied in the course of a
2. (right to refuse to perform)
a provision by which
[*180] a) the right under 320 of the contractual partner of the user to refuse to
perform is excluded or restricted, or
b) a right of retention of the contractual partner of the user, in so far as it
arises from the same contractual relationship, is excluded or restricted, in
particular by making it subject to recognition by the user of the existence of
3. (prohibition of set-off)
a provision by which the contractual partner of the user is deprived of the
right to set off a claim which is undisputed or has been declared final and
4. (notice, period for performance)
a provision by which the user is relieved of the statutory requirement to give
notice to the other party to perform or to fix a period for performance or
supplementary performance by him;
5. (lump-sum claims for damages)
stipulation of a lump-sum claim by the user for damages or for compensation for
reduction in value, if
a) the lump sum in the cases in question exceeds the damage expected in the
normal course of events or the reduction in value which normally occurs, or
b) the other party is not given the express right to prove that damage or
reduction in value has not occurred or is materially lower than the lump sum
a provision by which the user is entitled to receive payment of a penalty in
the event of non-acceptance or late acceptance of performance, delay in payment
or in the event that the other party withdraws from the contract;
7. (exclusion of liability for death,
n400 injury to body and health and for gross fault)
a) (death and injury to body and health)
exclusion or limitation of liability for losses arising out of death, injury to
body or health caused by negligent breach of duty by the user or a deliberate
or negligent breach of duty by his statutory agent or a person employed by him
to perform the contract;
b) (gross fault)
exclusion or limitation of liability for other losses caused by a grossly
negligent breach of duty by the user or a deliberate or grossly negligent
breach of duty by a statutory agent of the user or by a person employed by him
to perform the contract;
a) and b) above do not apply to restrictions of liability in the terms of
transport, authorised in accordance with the Passenger Transport Act, of trams,
trolley buses and motor vehicles in scheduled services, in so far as they do
not derogate, to the detriment of passengers, from the Regulation concerning
the terms of transport by tram and trolley bus and by motor vehicles in
scheduled services of 27 February 1970; b) above does not apply to restrictions
of liability for State-approved lottery or raffle contracts.
8. (other exclusions of liability in the event of breach of duty)
a) (exclusion of the right to withdraw from the contract)
a provision which, upon a breach of duty for which the user is responsible and
which does not consist in a defect of the thing sold or the work, excludes or
restricts the other party's right to withdraw from the contract; this does not
apply to the terms of contract and tariff rules referred to in No. 7 on the
conditions set out therein;
a provision by which, in contracts for the supply of new, manufactured things
or of work,
aa) (exclusion and reference of claims to third parties)
[*181] claims against the user on account of a defect as a whole or with regard to
individual elements of it are excluded entirely, restricted to the assignment
of claims against third parties, or which make the pursuit of legal proceedings
against third parties a condition precedent;
bb) (restriction to supplementary performance)
claims against the user are restricted, entirely or with regard to individual
elements, to a right to supplementary performance, unless the other party is
given an express right to claim a price reduction if supplementary performance
is unsuccessful or, except where the defects liability is in respect of
building work, to choose to terminate the contract;
cc) (expenditure incurred in the course of supplementary performance)
the user's obligation to bear the expenditure necessary for supplementary
performance, in particular the costs of carriage, transport, labour and
materials, is excluded or restricted;
dd) (withholding of supplementary performance)
the user makes supplementary performance conditional on the prior payment of
the entire price or, having regard to the defect, an unreasonably high
ee) (time-limit for notice of defects)
the user fixes a period within which the other party must give notice of
non-obvious defects which is shorter than the period permitted under ff) below;
ff) (facilitation of limitation)
facilitates the limitation of claims on account of defects in the cases set out
in 438(1), No. 2 and 634a(1), No. 2, or, in other cases, results in a
limitation period of less than one year from the date on which the statutory
period of limitation begins; this does not apply to contracts in which the
whole of Part B of the contracting rules for award of public works contracts is
9. (period of recurring obligations)
in a contractual relationship concerning the periodic delivery of goods or the
periodic supply of services or work by the user,
a) a contract duration which binds the other party for more than two years,
b) a tacit extension of the contractual relationship which binds the other
party for a period of more than one year in each particular case, or
c) to the detriment of the other party, a period of notice to terminate the
contract which is more than three months prior to the expiration of the initial
or tacitly extended period of the contract;
this does not apply to contracts for the supply of things sold as a unit, to
insurance contracts or contracts between the owners of
copyrights and of claims and
copyright collecting societies within the meaning of the Protection of
Copyrights and Related Rights Act;
10. (change of contract partner)
a provision whereby in sales contracts, contracts for the supply of services or
contracts for work a third party assumes or may assume the rights and
obligations of the user under the contract, unless the provision
a) specifies the third party by name, or
b) gives the other party the right to withdraw from the contract;
11. (liability of an agent on conclusion of the contract)
a provision by which the user imposes on an agent who concludes the contract
for the other party,
[*182] a) the agent's own liability or duty to perform the contractual obligation
without having made an express and separate declaration in that regard, or
b) where the agent lacks authority, liability which exceeds that under 179;
12. (burden of proof)
a provision by which the user alters the burden of proof to the detriment of
the other party in particular by
a) imposing the burden in respect of circumstances which fall within the scope
of the user's responsibility, or
b) requiring the other party to acknowledge particular facts;
Subsection b) above does not apply to acknowledgments of receipt which are
separately signed or bear a separate, qualified electronic signature;
13. (form of notices and declarations)
a provision by which notices or declarations to be given to the user or third
parties are subject to a stricter requirement than the need for writing or to
special requirements with regard to receipt.
310 Scope of application
(1) 305(2) and (3) and 308 and 309 do not apply to standard terms which are
proffered to a businessperson, a legal person governed by public law or a
special fund governed by public law. In those cases 307(1) and (2) nevertheless
applies to the extent that this results in the invalidity of the contractual
provisions referred to in 308 and 309; due regard must be had to the customs
and practices applying in business transactions.
(2) 308 and 309 do not apply to contracts of electricity, gas, district heating
or water supply undertakings for the supply to special customers of
electricity, gas, district heating or water from the supply grid unless the
conditions of supply derogate, to the detriment of the customer, from
Regulations on general conditions for the supply of tariff customers with
electricity, gas, district heating or water. The first sentence applies mutatis
mutandis to contracts for the disposal of sewage.
(3) In the case of contracts between a businessperson and a consumer (consumer
contracts) the rules in this section apply subject to the following provisions:
1. Standard terms are deemed to have been proffered by the businessperson,
unless the consumer introduced them into the contract;
2. 305c(2) and 306, 307 to 309 of the present Act and Article 29a of the
Introductory Act to the Civil Code apply to pre-established conditions of
contract even if they are intended for use only once and in so far as, because
they are pre-established, the consumer could not influence their content.
3. When deciding whether there has been unreasonable detriment under 307(1) and
(2) the circumstances surrounding the conclusion of the contract must also be
taken into account.
(4) This section does not apply to contracts in the field of the law of
succession, family law and company law or to collective agreements and
private-or public-sector works agreements. When it is applied to labour
contracts, appropriate regard must be had to the special features of labour
law; 305 (2) and (3) is not to be applied. Collective agreements and public and
private sector works agreements are equivalent to legal rules within the
meaning of 307(3).
n1. The title draws on that of Robert A. Hillman
& Jeffrey J. Rachlinski, Standard Form Contracting in the Electronic Age,
77 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 429 (2002).
n2. ALI is the source of the noted
"Restatements" of the law; it is composed of several thousand leading jurists. NCUSSL is
responsible for most Uniform Acts and consists of several commissioners per
state, usually appointed by the governor of the state, that represent the
state. See Richard E. Speidel, Revising Article 2: A View from the Trenches,
52 Hastings L.J. 607, 608-09 (2001).
n3. To name a few examples: a term in a contract for new electronic equipment
disclaims all warranties; the terms of a trial subscription to a magazine
provide that if not cancelled at the end of the thirty-day trial, a five-year
subscription will be entered; a software license provides that in no
circumstance may the licensee transfer the program to another computer.
n4. Tom Waits, Step Right Up, on Small Change (Elektra Entertainment 1976), lyrics
available at http://www.yimpan.com/Songsite/Lyric/index.asp?sid=2335. See
Waits v. Frito-Lay, Inc., 978 F.2d 1093 (9th Cir. 1991) (upholding songwriter's claim for misappropriation of the song).
n5. See infra text accompanying notes 78 to 80.
n6. See, e.g., Bates, infra note 15, at 105 ("Adequate consumer protection against unfair terms in form contracts [is] not
being provided by the American legal system"); Mark Klock, Unconscionability and Price Discrimination,
69 Tenn. L. Rev. 317, 350 (2002) (describing the American approach as
"a complete failure when it comes to deterring unconscionable contracts"). See also Swanson, infra note 17, at 370.
"Shrink-wrap" licenses are licenses printed on the packaging of software and other computer
information delivered to licensees in tangible media (e.g., computer diskettes
of some kind). The package is wrapped in a clear-read-through shrink-wrap
plastic. The buyer of the computer information is deemed to have assented to
the terms of the license by ripping open the shrink-wrap.
"Click-wrap" licenses are licenses shown in electronic form or made available to users on
computer screens to users. Before the user is permitted to use the online
service or the computer program, the user must agree to the license terms. The
user assents to the standard terms by clicking with the mouse. The term
"click-wrap" arose by analogy to
"shrink-wrap." Online licenses are typically in
"click-wrap" form, but there is yet another form of online license that is asserted:
"browse-wrap." The theory of a browse-wrap license is that the user is informed that use of
the Internet site amounts to the user's assent to the site's stated terms.
n8. See infra text accompanying note 346. The same trio seems to have lost only
one term to legal action in the United States. See
Specht v. Netscape Communications Corp. and America Online, Inc., 306 F.3d 17 (2nd Cir. 2002).
n9. See, e.g., The Consumer Contract Act [Japan 2001]; Adhesion Contract Act
[Korea 1986, amended 1992], both available in English translation at Asia
Pacific Consumer Law, http://www.ciroap.org/apcl/index.html.
n10. BGBI. I S. 3317 [hereinafter AGB-Gesetz]. See Thomas Wilhelmsson, Standard
Form Conditions, in Towards a European Civil Code 255, 258 (Arthur Hartkamp et
al. eds., 2d ed. 1998); Carl Baudenbacher, Some Remarks on the Method of Civil
34 Tex. Int'l L.J. 333, 341 (1999).
n11. See infra text accompanying notes 37-42, 197.
n12. Rudolf B. Schlesinger, The Uniform Commercial Code in the Light of Comparative
Law, 1 Inter-Am. L. Rev. 11, 33 (1959). Schlesinger's article first appeared in
a government document in 1955. Id. at 11.
n13. John P. Dawson, Unconscionable Coercion: The German Version,
89 Harv. L. Rev. 1041, 1125 (1976).
n14. Peter Winship, As the World Turns: Revisiting Rudolf Schlesinger's Study of
the Uniform Commercial Code
"In the Light of Comparative Law,"
29 Loy. L.A. L. Rev. 1143, 1156-58 (1996).
n15. There is no study in American legal literature of the E.U.'s Unfair Terms
Directive and no study based on primary sources of German Standard Terms law
since Dawson's study made before the German statute was adopted. The closest
article there is to such a study is Larry Bates's recently published work,
Administrative Regulation of Terms in Form Contracts: A Comparative Analysis of
16 Emory Int'l L. Rev. 1 (2002) (surveying law in Germany, Sweden and the United Kingdom before the directive,
as well as the law of Israel, for models for American law). Unfortunately,
Professor Bates's article does not treat the Unfair Terms Directive, and for
its discussion of German standard terms law, the article relies exclusively on
secondary, English-language sources published more than fifteen years ago.
n16. See infra text accompanying note 197.
n17. A comprehensive review is beyond the scope of this article. For recent fuller
examinations of standard terms in American law, see E. Alan Farnsworth,
Contracts 4.28 (3d ed. 1999); W. David Slawson, Binding Promises: The Late
20th-Century Reformation of Contract Law 142 (1996); James J. White
& Robert S. Summers, Uniform Commercial Code 151-77 (5th ed. 2000); Hillman
& Rachlinski, supra note 1; Carol B. Swanson, Unconscionable Quandary: U.C.C.
Article 2 and the Unconscionability Doctrine,
31 N.M. L. Rev. 359, 367 (2001). For a listing of still others, see Bates, supra note 15, at 2 n.2, 14 n.38
n18. For discussions of the costs and benefits of enforcing standard forms, see
Hein K<um o>tz, Welche gesetzgeberischen Mabetanahmen empfehlen sich zum Schutze des
Endverbrauchers gegen<um u>ber Allgemeinen Gesch<um a>ftsbedingungen und Formularvertr<um a>gen?, in 1 Verhandlungen des F<um u>nfzigsten Deutschen Juristentages, A9, A21-A25 (1974); Hillman
& Rachlinski, supra note 1, at 437-41 (2002). Standard terms make up standard
form contracts. Standard form contracts are themselves sometimes called
contracts of adhesion.
n19. Karl N. Llewellyn, Contract - Institutional Aspects, in 4 Encyclopedia of the
Social Sciences 329, 335 (Edwin R.A. Seligman ed., 1931).
n20. For a discussion of the economic, social, and cognitive reasons parties do not
read forms, see Hillman
& Rachlinski, supra note 1, at 445-54.
n21. While users are usually suppliers, sometimes they are customers, particularly
large ones. They also may be trade associations or even government bodies. They
frequently seek to transfer all risks to the other parties. See K<um o>tz, supra note 18, at A26-A29 (rejecting the argument that the risk transfer
produces lower prices).
n22. This quotation is from a company internal communication on file with the
author. While this might seem obvious to a lawyer, it is not always obvious to
laymen. The author had the in house lawyer's nightmare come true: an internal
client used the company form when the company was, exceptionally, on the other
side of the transaction.
n23. See 1 Hein K<um o>tz
& Axel Flessner, European Contract Law 138 (Tony Weir trans. 1997); Konrad
& Hein K<um o>tz, Introduction to Comparative Law 333 (Tony Weir trans., 3d ed. 1998)
n24. This article is concerned only with overreaching through use of standard terms
and not with other issues of overreaching, such as duress.
n25. See, e.g., Farnsworth, supra note 17, 4.26, at 301-02 (highlighting
Llewellyn's name in the margin); Hillman
& Rachlinski, supra note 1 (in which Llewellyn's name appears 34 times). Cf.
Dawson, supra note 13, at 1117.
n26. U.C.C. 2-302(1) (2002) provides:
If the court as a matter of law finds the contract or any clause of the
contract to have been unconscionable at the time it was made the court may
refuse to enforce the contract, or it may enforce the remainder of the contract
without the unconscionable clause, or it may so limit the application of any
unconscionable clause as to avoid any unconscionable result.
Official Comment 1 elaborates:
This section is intended to make it possible for the courts to police
explicitly against the contracts or clauses which they find to be
unconscionable. In the past such policing has been accomplished by adverse
construction of language, by manipulation of the rules of offer and acceptance
or by determinations that the clause is contrary to public policy or to the
dominant purpose of the contract. The section is intended to allow the court to
pass directly on the unconscionability of the contract or particular clause
therein and to make a conclusion of law as to its unconscionability. The basic
test is whether, in the light of the general commercial background and the
commercial needs of the particular trade or case, the clauses involved are so
one-sided as to be unconscionable under the circumstances existing at the time
of the making of the contract. Subsection (2) makes it clear that it is proper
for the court to hear evidence upon these questions. The principle is one of
the prevention of oppression and unfair surprise and not of disturbance of
allocation of risks because of superior bargaining power. Id. (internal
See also K<um o>tz, supra note 18, at A49 (discussing the virtues of an open control of content
in German law).
n27. Allen R. Kamp, Uptown Act: A History of the Uniform Commercial Code: 1940-49,
51 SMU L. Rev. 275, 299-302, 306-14, 334-36 (1998) (quoting the provision); see also Arthur Allen Leff, Unconscionability and the
Code - The Emperor's New Clause,
115 U. Pa. L. Rev. 485, 509-10 (1967) (quoting the provision).
n28. The history of the drafting of section 2-302 is set out in Leff, supra note
27, at 489-501, 509-16.
n29. Farnsworth, supra note 17, 4.28, at 307, citing New York Law Revision
Commission, Hearings on the Uniform Commercial Code at 121 (1954).
n30. John D. Calamari
& Joseph M. Perillo, The Law of Contracts 365 (4th ed. 1998).
n31. If the ALI Membership adopts the NCCUSL-ALI post-1999 compromise, already
approved by both NCCUSL and by the ALI Council, see Report of ALI Council
Consideration of U.C.C. Projects, available at
http://www.ali.org/forum4/ALIReport<uscore>Liebman1002. htm (last visited Nov. 11, 2002), the only change will be to
substitute the word
"term" for the word
"clause." See American Law Institute, Uniform Commercial Code - Proposed Amendments to
Article 2. Sales
& Proposed Amendments to Article 2A. Leases - Council Draft No. 2 (October 8,
2002) 2-302 (2002). If that draft is defeated, which seems unlikely, there will
be no change at all.
n32. Karl N. Llewellyn, The Common Law Tradition - Deciding Appeals 370 (1960).
& Rachlinski, supra note 1, at 461. See also Martin Munz, Allgemeine Gesch<um a>ftsbedingungen in den USA und Deutschland im Handelsverkehr 70 (1992).
n34. At least there has been no general legislation. There have been consumer
protection laws that affect standard terms in certain types of contracts and
n35. See, e.g., Bates, supra note 15, at 2 n.2, 14 n.40 (concluding that there is
"absence of any sort of consensus among legal commentators" and
"the case law is full of inconsistencies, contradictions, and lacks any sort of
unifying theme"); Hillman
& Rachlinski, supra note 1, at 434 (noting that
"the doctrine governing contract enforcement has long been criticized as vague,
ill-defined, and easily muddled").
n36. This is clear from the official comment, quoted in supra note 26. Cf.
Farnsworth, supra note 17, 4.28, at 307 (calling it
"one of the [U.C.C.'s] most innovative sections").
n37. Rudolf B. Schlesinger et al., Comparative Law: Cases - Text - Materials 20-21
(6th ed. 1998); Jutta Klapisch, Der Einflubeta der deutschen und
<um o>sterreichischen Emigranten auf Contracts of Adhesion und Bargaining in Good
Faith im US-amerikanischen Recht 66 (1991) (citing views of Eike von Hippel).
The inspirational sections would be Section 138 (prohibiting sittenwidrige
transactions, i.e., those against good morals), and Section 242 (requiring Treu
und Glauben, i.e.,
"good faith" in carrying out contracts). But not everyone sees its origin in German law.
See, e.g., Kamp, supra note 27, at 299-302, 306-14, 334-36 (1998) (discussing
origin of Section 2-302 with no mention of a German connection). Those who see
the origin elsewhere find it in the practice of the courts of equity. The
concept of unconscionability is said to have
"deep roots in law and equity." See Calamari
& Perillo, supra note 30, 9.38, at 366. But see
United States v. Bethlehem Steel Corp., 315 U.S. 289, 300 (1942) (suggesting skepticism in referring to an
"asserted doctrine of unconscionability"). What mix of influences may have directed Llewellyn's drafting of 2-302 may
never be known, but that the German Civil Code was a direct influence on him is
generally believed. See E. Allan Farnsworth, Duties of Good Faith and Fair
Dealing Under the UNIDROIT Principles, Relevant International Conventions, and
3 Tul. J. Int'l & Comp. L. 47, 52 (1995) (noting that the obligation of good faith in U.C.C. Section 1-304, former
Section 1-203, comes directly from Section 242 of the German Civil Code).
n38. See Schlesinger et al., supra note 37, at 21. Riesenfeld reports the counsel
that Llewellyn gave him immediately upon his arrival in the United States:
Another piece of advice impressed me even more. He mentioned the failure of
courses in comparative law and told me never to reveal when I relied on an idea
coming from continental Europe, because that would be the
"kiss of death,' again reiterating that admonition three times over so that it
would sink in as it did.
Stefen A. Riesenfeld, Reminiscences of Karl Llewellyn, in Rechtsrealismus,
multikulturelle Gesellschaft und Handelsracht: Karl N. Llewellyn und seine
Bedeutung heute 11, 14 (Ulrich Drobnig
& Manfred Rehbinder eds., 1994).
n39. See Michael Ansaldi, The German Llewellyn,
58 Brook. L. Rev. 705 (1992); Paul D. Carrington, Der Einflubeta kontinentalen Rechts auf Juristen und
Rechtskultur der USA 1776-1933 JZ [Juristenzeitung] 529, 537; Ulrich Drobnig,
Llewellyn and Germany, in Rechtsrealismus, supra note 38, at 17; Shael Herman,
Llewellyn the Civilian: Speculations on the Contribution of Continental
Experience to the Uniform Commercial Code,
56 Tul. L. Rev. 1125, 1128 (1982); Riesenfeld, supra note 38, at 15 ("Llewellyn was intimately acquainted with German doctrinal developments."); James Whitman, Commercial Law and the American Volk: A Note on Llewellyn's
German Sources for the Uniform Commercial Code,
97 Yale L.J. 156 (1987). A close connection remained to the end of his life. When he died in 1962
Llewellyn was working on a set of lectures to deliver in Germany that were to
"comprehensive picture of his thought" such as he had never before given. William Twining, Karl Llewellyn and the
Realist Movement viii (1973).
n40. Karl N. Llewellyn, Pr<um a>judizienrecht und Rechtsprechung in Amerika (1933), translated as The Case Law
System in America (M. Ansaldi trans., 1989).
n41. Karl N. Llewellyn, Book Review,
52 Harv. L. Rev. 700 (1939) (reviewing Otto Prausnitz, The Standardization of Commercial Contracts in
English and Continental Law (1937)). Dawson observed that the
"main object" of the book was to describe German practice on standardized form contracts.
Dawson, supra note 13, at 1117-23.
n42. Dawson hints at such an inspiration. Compare Dawson, supra note 13, at 1108
(noting German Supreme Court Judgment of March 8, 1955) with id. at 1118 ("Even a brief summary [of Llewellyn's 1960 argument] should suggest how closely
it parallels the basic elements in the thinking of German courts and scholars." Nor did the influence of German law on American treatment of form agreements
stop with Llewellyn. Emigre German scholars, particularly Friedrich Kessler and
Albert Ehrenzweig, had a substantial influence. See Gottfried Raiser, Die
gerichtliche Kontrolle von Formularbedingungen im amerikanischen und deutschen
Recht 12 n.65 (1966); Klapisch, supra note 37, at 55-110; Jerome Frank, Civil
Law Influences on the Common Law - Some Reflections on
104 U. Pa. L. Rev. 887, 889 (1956); Rudolf B. Schlesinger, supra note 12, at 32 n.54.
n43. See Calamari
& Perillo, supra note 30, 9.39, at 370; Farnsworth, supra note 17, 4.28, at 308;
& Summers, supra note 17, 4-2, at 153. See also
Gillman v. Chase Manhattan Bank, N.A., 534 N.E.2d 824, 828 (N.Y. 1988) (applying 2-302 unconscionability analysis to non-Article 2 transaction);
Gonzalez v. A-1 Self-Storage, Inc. 795 A.2d 885, 888 (N.J. Super. Ct. 2000) (applying 2-302 unconscionability analysis to non-U.C.C. transaction and
commenting on role of 2-302 generally). Cf. Slawson, supra note 17, at 142
(noting that when courts adopted unconscionability,
"they were not changing the common law to be like Article 2 - they were making
the common law and the law of the article simultaneously").
n44. Sinai Deutch, Unfair Contracts: The Doctrine of Unconscionability 24 n.1
(1977) (reporting one non-standard term case out of 160); Slawson, supra note
17, at 142 (reporting
"not one" case out of
"thousands" involving a non-standard term). In the earliest days of the Section, many
cases are said to have involved excessive prices, which obviously are not
standard terms. Those cases, however, are said to have dwindled to a
& Summers, supra note 17, 4-6, at 163.
& Perillo, supra note 30, at 371; Slawson, supra note 17, at 143 (1996)
"at least 40 percent of the parties seeking the protections of unconscionability
in the reported cases have been business consumers since 1990").
& Summers, supra note 17, 4-9, at 176. But see Slawson, supra note 17, at 143
(noting that it is applied to both
n47. U.C.C. 2-302(2).
Forsyth v. BancBoston Mortgage Corp., 135 F.3d 1069, 1074 (6th Cir. 1997). Accord, White
& Summers, supra note 17, 4-3, at 156 ("It is not possible to define unconscionability. It is not a concept, but a
determination to be made in light of a variety of factors not unifiable into a
formula."). Dawson also emphasized the general character of the Section 2-302 test. See
Dawson, supra note 13, at 1042 (noting that
"all will agree that by any test Section 2-302 is a general clause").
& Perillo, supra note 30, 9.37, at 366, 9.40, at 373. The Comment is quoted
supra note 26.
n50. Formative for the American discussion is Leff, supra note 27. See also Hillman
& Rachlinski, supra note 1, at 456-58 (discussing unconscionability and the
importance of Leff's argument). Views of Leff's article are disparate.
According to one view, it is one of the twenty-two most influential law review
pieces published between 1965 and 1985. Robert C. Berring
& Sally Gunderson, Preface to 3 Great American Law Reviews 1, 1-3 (Robert C.
& Sally Gunderson eds.,1990). Dawson thought it, of the many articles on U.C.C.
"the silliest of them all." Dawson, supra note 13, at 1041 n.1.
n51. See U.C.C. [New] Revised art. 2. Sales 2-302, Comment 1, at 34-35 (Council
Draft No. 1) (Oct. 5, 2000) (noting that courts
"should seldom invalidate a contract, or a term of a contract, that is not
substantively unconscionable solely on the basis of one party's conduct," but
"generally" should require both
"substantive" unconscionability); Swanson, supra note 22, at 365, 393-95.
Marin Storage & Trucking, Inc. v. Benco Contracting and Engineering, Inc., 107 Cal. Rptr. 645, 656 (2001). See Slawson, supra note 17, at 57; Hillman
& Rachlinski, supra note 1, at 457; Swanson, supra note 22, at 367, 393-95.
n53. Swanson, supra note 17, at 368. See also White
& Summers, supra note 17, 4-7, at 169.
n54. See, e.g.,
Eller v. Nationsbank of Texas, 975 S.W.2d 803, 807 (Tex. App. 1998) (upholding a term absolving bank of all liability for loss to safe deposit box
"having signed it, she is bound by its terms"). But see White
& Summers, supra note 17, 4-7, at 169 (noting that courts have yet to give an
answer to this question). Murray notes that in American contract law,
"the overriding reluctance to excuse a party from the terms of a record he has
signed continues as a brooding omnipresence." John E. Murray, Jr., The Emerging Article 2: The Latest Iteration,
35 Duq. L. Rev. 533, 565 (1997). It is especially strong in a business context, even where the signer cannot
read the language of the document. See, e.g., MCC-Marble Ceramic Center, Inc.
v. Cermanica Nuova d'
Agostino, S.p.A., 144 F.3d 1384, 1386 n.5 (11th Cir. 1998) ("We find it nothing short of astounding that an individual, purportedly
experienced in commercial matters, would sign a contract in a foreign language
and expect not to be bound simply because he could not comprehend its terms."). But under German law, the contract partner ordinarily will be deemed to have
accepted foreign language standard terms only if they are in the language in
which contract negotiations took place. Schmidt in Ulmer/Brandner/Hensen,
AGB-Gesetz, Kommentar zum Gesetz zur Regelung des Rechts der Allgemeinen Gesch<um a>ftsbedingungen 277 (9th ed. 2001) [hereinafter Ulmer/Brandner/Hensen,
AGB-Gesetz]. Speidel, long before he became Reporter for Revised Article 2,
"writing off the individual consumer who should have reasonably understood that
a risk was allocated to him." Richard E. Speidel, Unconscionability, Assent and Consumer Protection,
31 U. Pitt. L. Rev. 359, 364 (1970). He called for eliminating any requirement of assent for consumers and testing
consumer general terms only against
Id. at 374-75. Cf. White
& Summers, supra note 17, 4-7, at 169 ("Courts probably delude themselves when they assume that the prominence of a
printed clause brings it to the buyer's attention and thus gives buyer a more
& Perillo, supra note 30, 9.45, at 390.
n56. Cf. White
& Summers, supra note 17, 4-3, at 156 (giving as an example,
"I have the right to cut off one of your child's fingers for each day you are in
n57. See, e.g.,
Smith v. Professional Claims, Inc., 19 F. Supp. 2d 1276, 1280 (M.D. Al. 1998) (noting that
"the doctrine of unconscionability is reserved for egregious cases"). Cf. White
& Summers, supra note 17, 4-2, at 154 ("gross advantage-taking").
n58. But see Munz, supra note 33, at 225-26 (arguing that the goal of American law
is to create a fictitious equality of the parties).
n59. Swanson, supra note 17, at 366.
n60. Slawson, supra note 17, at 57.
n61. Restatement 211 reads in full:
211 Standardized Agreements
(1) Except as stated in Subsection (3), where a party to an agreement signs or
otherwise manifests assent to a writing and has reason to believe that like
writings are regularly used to embody terms of agreements of the same type, he
adopts the writing as an integrated agreement with respect to the terms
included in the writing.
(2) Such a writing is interpreted wherever reasonable as treating alike all
those similarly situated, without regard to their knowledge or understanding of
the standard terms of the writing.
(3) Where the other party has reason to believe that the party manifesting such
assent would not do so if he knew that the writing contained a particular term,
the term is not part of the agreement.
n62. James J. White, Form Contracts Under Revised Article 2,
75 Wash. U. L.Q. 315, 324-25 (1997).
& Rachlinski, supra note 1, at 459.
n66. But the Restatement test
"seems to be suggesting a new kind of objective approach to standardized
agreements. Rather than seeking out true assent on a case by case basis, it
places the duty on the courts to consider the essential fairness of the printed
terms, both from the viewpoint of surprise and inherent one-sidedness." Calamari
& Perillo, supra note 30, 9.45, at 391. Had American contract law gone in that
direction, it would be similar to the contract model of German law. See infra
& Rachlinski, supra note 1, at 461.
n68. Slawson, supra note 17, at 143. Of course, the careful user in the occasional
challenge case will settle that case so as not to risk an adverse decision on
the term that might hinder its future use. See Swanson, supra note 17, at 387.
For a discussion of the infirmities of enforcement through litigation, see
Bates, supra note 15, at 6-7, 18-28.
n69. U.C.C. Revised art. 2, 2-105 (Discussion Draft 1997). The actual number of
cases is debated, but the fact that the number is in the tens or hundreds
rather than in thousands or higher seems clear.
Amoco Oil Co. v. Ashcraft, 791 F.2d 519, 522-23 (7th Cir. 1985).
n71. ABA Guide to Consumer Law, Chapter 3,
http://www.abanet.org/publiced/practical/books/consumer/ho me.html (last
visited Dec. 15, 2002).
n72. See Calamari
& Perillo, supra note 30, 9.45 (finding inconsistency in which theory should be
applied, and a lack of uniformity in the results reached in similar cases);
Farnsworth, supra note 17, 4.28 ("[That] the term is incapable of precise definition is a source of both strength
and weakness."); White
& Summers, supra note 17, 4-3, at 155 (noting that the test of unconscionability
n73. See, e.g., Bates, supra note 15, at 14 n.40 ("The case law is full of inconsistencies, contradictions, and lacks any sort of
unifying theme."); Swanson, supra note 17, at 386 ("Athough the commentary is mixed, most is negative, and the volume of discontent
alone signals a desire for change - for improvement. The most common criticisms
stem from the amorphous nature of the doctrine... ."). See also John E. Murray, Jr., Unconscionability: Unconscionability,
31 U. Pitt. L. Rev. 1, 2 (1969) ("The existing case law is not helpful with rare exception - the writers have
done little beyond deplore the Delphic nature of the concept or the
n74. Llewellyn, supra note 32, at 369-70. Cf. Murray, supra note 37, at 38.
n75. U.C.C. 2-302 (Official Comment 1) (2002).
n76. This was already noted in 1970. See Robert Braucher, The Unconscionable
Contract or Term,
31 U. Pitt. L. Rev. 337, 345 (1970) ("Conservatism in the application of section 2-302, together with refusal to give
it punitive or penal effect, have kept it from having any noticeably disruptive
effect on the commercial world.").
n77. See, e.g., Slawson, supra note 17, at 143; see also Eben Colby, Note, What Did
the Doctrine of Unconscionability Do to the Walker Thomas Furniture Company?,
34 Conn. L. Rev. 625 (2002) (reviewing a famous unconscionability case and its impact on the party to it).
n78. See, e.g., Letter from Professor Randy E. Barnett, Austin B. Fletcher
Professor, Boston University School of Law, to Lawrence J. Bugge, Chairman,
Article 2 Drafting Committee (Mar. 9, 1999) at 1, 2, quoted in Holly K. Towle,
Mass Market Transactions in the Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act,
38 Duq. L. Rev. 371, 403 (2000) ("There is no great reservoir of problematic cases in which consumers have been
victimized in ways that are not currently redressed by 2-302. I searched hard
for such cases to include in my casebook ... but to no avail. The seas were
relatively tranquil... .It is an attempt to fix something that is not broken,
with the effect of harming both consumers and sellers in the process.").
n79. See, e.g., Hillman
& Rachlinski, supra note 1. See also Robert A. Hillman, Debunking Some Myths
About Unconscionability: A New Framework for U.C.C. Section 2-302,
67 Cornell L. Rev. 1, 25 (1981).
n80. See, e.g., Hillman
& Rachlinski, supra note 1, at 461 ("The current bundle of judicial approaches to policing paper-form contracts
reflects Llewellyn's vision and provides a workable solution to the issues
raised by paper standard forms."); Swanson, supra note 17, at 399 ("As for substantive content, the current Section 2-302 adequately serves its
underlying purposes... . Despite all the fuss, the more things change, the more
they remain the same - and that is not a bad result here."); White, supra note 62.
n81. See, e.g., John E. Murray, Jr.
& Harry M. Flechtner, The Summer, 1999 Draft of Revised Article 2 of the Uniform
Commercial Code: What Hath NCCUSL Rejected?,
19 J.L. & Com. 1, 40 (1999) ("There is no escape from such a necessarily fluid and vague standard."); Murray, supra note 73, at 38 ("any statute is at best dubious, uncertain, awkward, deficient or spotty") (paraphrasing Llewellyn, supra note 32, at 370); Slawson, supra note 17, at
144, 174 ; William J. Woodward, Jr., Neoformalism in a Real World of Forms,
2001 Wis. L. Rev. 971, 1004 (2001).
n82. Swanson, supra note 17, at 387.
n83. Michael M. Greenfield
& Linda J. Rusch, Limits on Standard-Form Contracting in Revised Article 2,
32 U.C.C. L.J. 115, 144 (1999).
"Debacle" is a term used by the original Reporter for Revised Article 2 - Sales,
Professor Richard Speidel. See Speidel, supra note 2, at 612.
n85. See generally Linda J. Rusch, A History and Perspective of Revised Article 2:
The Never Ending Saga of a Search for Balance,
52 SMU L. Rev. 1683 (1999).
n86. On the hub-and-spoke approach generally in the proposed revisions to Article
2, see Greenfield
& Rusch, supra note 83, at 123; Rusch, supra note 85, at 1686; Speidel, supra
note 2, at 612-13. Professor Rusch was Associate Reporter for Revised Article
n87. According to the Reporter for the Article 2 Drafting Committee, Professor
Richard E. Speidel, the NCCUSL dropped the hub-and-spoke approach because
certain strong software producers and others in industry opposed it. These
producers viewed the draft then on the table as too oriented toward consumers.
They wanted their own law. Speidel, supra note 2, at 619.
n88. In both instances, the leadership of the respective organizations declined to
present the proposals to their memberships for a vote. See id. at 611, 619.
n89. The proposal was approved by NCCUSL at its annual meeting in summer 2002 and
by the ALI Council in October 2002. It has only to receive the approval of the
ALI Membership at the ALI Annual Meeting in May 2003 to be adopted. See Report
of ALI Council Consideration of U.C.C. Projects, supra note 31.
n90. Speidel, supra note 2, at 617-18.
n91. Id. at 618.
n92. The author, then a representative of business, was somewhat unusual in his
views. While not promoting radical change, he did urge that the Proposed
Article 2B - Licenses Drafting Committee adopt some broadening of Section 2-302
in order to make the proposed legislation more enactable.
& Rusch, supra note 83.
n94. Speidel, supra note 2, at 615.
n95. Id. at 614-16. Industry objected to special rules for consumers and to rules
based on standard terms. See, e.g., Letter from William M. Elliott, Senior Vice
President, General Counsel and Secretary, Gateway to Lawrence J. Bugge,
Chairman, U.C.C. Article 2 Drafting Committee (Mar. 9, 1999) (on file with
n96. For the earlier part of the 2-206 story, see Murray, supra note 54, at 563-71.
& Rusch, supra note 83, at 125-26.
n98. U.C.C. Revised art. 2 - Sales (Proposed Final Draft) (May 1, 1999).
n99. See UCITA, Prefatory Note (2000) ("What rights are acquired or withheld depends on what the contract says. This
point only is implicit in Article 2 for goods such as books; UCITA makes it
explicit for the information economy where, unlike in the case of a book, the
contract (license) is the product."); see also Robert W. Gomulkiewicz, The License Is the Product: Comments on the
Promise of Article 2B for Software and Information Licensing,
13 Berkeley Tech. L.J. 891, 895-99 (1998). In Germany, in discussing standard terms, the point is made of insurance:
"insurance as product of law" ("Versicherung als Rechtsprodukt"). Joachim Schmidt-Salzer, EG-Richtlinie
<um u>ber mibetabr<um a>uchliche Klauseln in Verbrauchervertr<um a>gen, Inhaltskontrolle von AVB und Deregulierung der Versicherungsaufsicht,
VersR [VersicherungsRecht] 1995, 1261, text and accompanying note. See also
& Jonathan A. Franklin, Privately Legislated Intellectual Property Rights:
Reconciling Freedom of Contract with Public Good Uses of Information,
147 U. Pa. L. Rev. 875, 900-03 (1999); cf. Arthur Allen Leff, Contract as Thing,
19 Am. U. L. Rev. 131 (1970); Margaret Jane Radin, Humans, Computers, and Binding Commitment,
75 Ind. L.J. 1125 (2000).
n100. See Greenfield
& Rusch, supra note 83, at 125 (noting that the October 1, 1995 draft of 2-206
included the reasonable expectations test; see also U.C.C. Revised art. 2B
(Licenses with Prefatory Note and Comments 2B-308(b)(1)) (Feb. 2, 1996),
available at http://www.law.upenn.edu/bll/ulc/ulc<uscore>frame.htm ("The term creates an obligation or imposes a limitation that is not consistent
with customary industry practices and that a reasonable licensor should know
would cause most licensees in transactions of similar type to refuse the
contract if the term were brought to the attention of the licensee... .").
n101. UCITA 102(a)(60). See also Speidel, supra note 2, at 619.
n102. See UCITA 209.
n103. See, e.g., Towle, supra note 78, at 379-80 (2000) ("Under UCITA, the customer in a
"mass-market transaction' is afforded what amount to consumer protections, even
if the customer is a business. As noted, this represents a dramatic legal shift.").
n104. See Speidel, supra note 2, at 619.
n105. UCITA 209(b).
Hill v. Gateway 2000, Inc., 105 F.3d 1147 (7th Cir.), cert. denied,
522 U.S. 808 (1997) (enforcing an arbitration clause that the consumer did not receive or review
until after receiving the product). But it appears that the court believed that
the consumer did have an opportunity to review, which the consumer did not
Id. at 1150. The Article 2 Drafting Committee also struggled with this issue and in the end
ignored it. See Speidel, supra note 2, at 616. Gateway's General Counsel
advised the Article 2 Committee Chairman of facts indicating that there was an
opportunity to review. Letter from William M. Elliott, Senior Vice President,
General Counsel and Secretary, Gateway, to Lawrence J. Bugge, Chairman, U.C.C.
Article 2 Drafting Committee (Feb. 3 1999) (on file with author). Similarly,
Carnival Cruise Lines, Inc. v. Shute, 499 U.S. 585 (1991), does not uphold enforcing standard terms where there is no opportunity to
review. The Shute Court specifically noted that the question of opportunity to
review had been conceded.
Id. at 590.
n107. The summer 2002 final amendments are available at
n108. U.C.C. art. 2B - Licenses (Discussion Draft Mar. 21, 1997), available at
n109. U.C.C. art. 2B - Licenses (Discussion Draft Aug. 1, 1998), available at
n110. U.C.C. art. 2B Software Contracts and Licenses of Information (Council Draft
No. 4, Dec. 1, 1998) 2B-105 Reporter's Notes at 38-39 (1998), available at
n111. UCITA 105 (preemption by federal law; contracts contrary to public policy);
111 (unconscionability); 209 (same).
n112. Leo L. Clarke, Performance Risk, Form Contracts and UCITA,
7 Mich. Telecomm. Tech. L. Rev. 1, 33 (2000).
& Franklin, supra note 99, at 906. They propose that UCITA include a standard of
"public interest unconscionability" which would read:
"All mass-market contracts, non-negotiable access contracts, and contracts
imposing non-negotiable restrictions on uses of computerized information goods
must be made on fair and reasonable terms and conditions, with due regard for
the public interest in education, science, research, technological innovation,
freedom of speech, and the preservation of competition." Id. at 930 (emphasis omitted).
n114. See Report of the Nov. 13-15, 1998 Drafting Committee meeting,
http://www.2bguide.com/nov98rpt.html. At the meeting,
[a] committee member argued in favor of placing some kind of
"reasonableness" restriction around mass market license terms, referring to the Hazard memo.
Other committee members disagreed, noting that the refund right in this section
was the tradeoff for allowing terms to be made available after acquisition. The
Reporter agreed, and noting that 2B built in the right to say no to the terms,
stated that the committee should not allow courts to throw out terms that were
neither unconscionable nor in violation of a fundamental public policy... . A
committee member responded by asking whether people were satisfied with the
unconscionability doctrine or not. Some seemed to want to reject a
"refusal term" in a license with the beneficial part of the bargain still being held to be
enforceable. If there were problems in the real world, the unconscionability
doctrine would have been expanded in the last 50 years. The lack of controversy
around the unconscionability standard did not support the argument that a
refusal term standard is necessary. Another committee member disagreed, stating
that unconscionability issues were mostly raised in small claims court, so
there was no data to say that people were satisfied with the standard... . The
comment was then made that earlier there seemed to be an intent to have a new
standard on unconscionability (unconscionability lite) but it no longer seemed
to be included.
n115. The Drafting Committee Chair, Carlyle Ring, in several conversations with the
author at different drafting sessions emphasized that in his experience, a
proposed uniform law is most likely to be accepted if it can be presented as
merely a codification of existing law and practice.
n116. Raymond T. Nimmer, Breaking Barriers: The Relation Between Contract And
Intellectual Property Law,
13 Berkeley Tech. L.J. 827, 847 (1998).
n117. Speidel argues that NCCUSL is more concerned with getting a law enacted, while
ALI is more interested in getting it right. See Speidel, supra note 2, at 608.
n118. See, e.g.,
Free Software Foundation, Why We Must Fight UCITA, http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/ucita.html ("UCITA will allow the publishers to impose the most outrageous restrictions on
you."); Americans for Fair Electronic Commerce Transactions, What's Wrong With
UCITA?, http://www.4cite.org/what<uscore>problems.html; Letter from American Library Association and four other library
associations, to Gene N. Lebrun, President of the National Conference of
Commissioners on Uniform State Laws 3 (July 12, 1999),
http://www.arl.org/info/letters/lebrun7.12.html ("[UCITA] legitimizes shrink wrap or click on licenses which may include terms
that inappropriately restrict use by the purchaser or user."). For the concerns of libraries, see James R. Maxeiner, The New Commercial Law
And Public Information Policy: The Libraries and UCITA, 219, 233 in
Understanding Electronic Contracting: UCITA, E-Signature, Federal, State and
Foreign Regulation (Practising Law Institute, 2001). For opposition generally,
see the website on UCITA for Laura N. Gasaway's cyberspace law course at
n119. See, e.g., Clarke, supra note 112, at 4:
"The National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws ... has
promulgated a comprehensive commercial statute that fails to remedy or even
modify the law of form contracts in purely commercial transactions." See also Cem Kaner, Why You Should Oppose UCITA, 17 Computer Lawyer, 20, at
21-22 (May 2000):
You might try arguing that the term is unconscionable under UCITA Section 111,
but courts are rarely receptive to a business' plea for relief from a contract
term on grounds of unconscionability. You might try arguing that this term
should not be enforced because something about it violates a fundamental public
policy, but I'm not sure which one you would cite.
But see Law Library Association of Maryland, Testimony In Opposition To
Maryland House Bill 19, Senate Bill 142, Feb. 3, 2000,
http://www.ll.georgetown.edu/aallwash/tm020300b.html. ("UCITA's explicit endorsement of shrink-wrap licenses will make many unfair
terms enforceable in court, whereas today many such terms are thrown out.").
n120. See Michael L. Rustad, Making UCITA More Consumer-Friendly, 18 J. Marshall J.
& Info. L. 547, 550 (1999). For further information on UCITA and standard terms,
see Clarke, supra note 112. Even if UCITA is not adopted nation-wide, it may
still have helped industry obtain validation of use of standard terms in
shrink-wrap and clickwrap licenses.
n121. See supra text accompanying notes 11-14.
n122. UNIDROIT, Principles of International Commercial Contracts (1994), deals with
what is known in the United States as the
"battle of the forms" and is not relevant here. Of the other three, article 2.19 defines standard
terms. Articles 2.20 and 2.21 provide limited incorporation controls. The
former provides that
"(1) No term contained in standard terms which is of such a character that the
other party could not reasonably have expected it, is effective unless it has
been expressly accepted by that party." Id. at 58. The latter merely provides that in case of conflict, a term that is
not a standard term prevails over a standard term.
n123. Henry D. Gabriel, The Inapplicability of the United Nations Convention on the
International Sale of Goods as a Model for the Revision of Article Two of the
Uniform Commercial Code,
72 Tul. L. Rev. 1995, 2001 (1998). See also Richard E. Speidel, The Impact of Internationalization of
Transnational Commercial Law: The Revision of UCC Article 2, Sales in Light of
the United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods,
16 J. Int'l L. & Bus. 165 (1995).
n124. New Jersey Law Revision Commission, Final Report Relating to Standard Form
Contracts 1 (g), at 2 (1998), available at http://www.lawrev.state.nj.us. The
Commission's Report concluded that existing law does not provide
"uniform and flexible standards" and has neither
"protected consumers against the opportunism of certain sellers nor has it
provided sellers with legal rules based on the logic of the mass market."
n125. Id. 8(a).
"[A] term is enforceable unless, at the time of sale, the term would have caused
a reasonable buyer to reject the sale."
n126. Id. 9-12.
n127. For example, the New Jersey Commission's associate counsel, John J.A. Burke,
wrote the author:
In reply to your question, the Commission reviewed the European Directive on
Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts as well as the French and German Codes. The
Commission followed the European approach in so far as identifying specific
issues for legislative governance. However, unlike the European approach, the
Commission's Standard Form Contract Act (SFC) is not consumer protection
legislation. Rather, it is an attempt to set the limits of
"freedom of contract" in an area where one party to the contract is the single author seeking to
pass virtually all risk to the other party. The SFC Act makes no distinction
between merchants and consumers nor does its application depend on the nature
of the product that is the subject of the contract, thus unifying the law of
contracts for goods, services and intellectual property.
E-mail from John J.A. Burke, Associate Counsel to the New Jersey Law Review
Commission, to author (July 8, 2002) (on file with author). See also John J.A.
Burke, Contract as Commodity: A Nonfiction Approach,
24 Seton Hall Legis. J. 285 (2000).
In 2002 Professor Larry Bates made an even more radical proposal: standard
terms should be presumed invalid; the relationship between user and the other
party should be regarded as a
"status relationship" subject to regulation; and that an administrative body should approve use of
standard terms. Significantly, he drew inspiration from foreign experiences.
Bates, supra note 15, at 90-105.
n128. Id. at 326-31, 792-94. Directives contrast with
"regulations," which are applicable generally, are binding in all respects and are directly
applicable. Id. at 324. See generally Peter-Christian M<um u>ller-Graff, EC Directives as a Means of Private Law Unification, in Towards a
European Civil Code (Arthur Hartkamp et al. eds., 2d rev. ed. 1998).
n129. Report from the Commission on the Implementation of Council Directive
93/13/EEC of 5 April 1993 on Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts, COM (2000) 248
final (noting that Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal, and the Nordic countries
had only to amend their laws) [hereinafter E.U. Commission Report].
n130. Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts and an Appropriate Method of Control,
Resolution (76) 47 of the Comm. of Ministers, Council of Europe, 262d Meet.
n131. Id. at 11.
n132. Examples include:
4. Terms whereby a contract will continue in being for an unreasonably long
period unless terminated by the consumer by a specified date... .
6. Terms whereby the supplier reserves the right to decide unilaterally whether
the goods are in conformity with the contract or not... .
8. Terms whereby the goods need not correspond with those elements of their
description which are essential to the consumer or with the sample or need not
be fit for the purpose communicated by the consumer and accepted by the
supplier or in default of such communication with their normal use... .
9. Terms whereby the supplier can without reasonable grounds withhold the
fulfillment of his obligations... .
12. Terms whereby the liability of the supplier is either excluded or limited
to an unjustified extent... .
14. Terms whereby the right of the consumer to repudiate a contract under which
the supplier is bound to repair the goods and does not do so within a
reasonable time is excluded... .
18. Terms whereby the withholding by the consumer of all or part of the payment
due, if the supplier does not fulfil his obligations, is prohibited... .
21. Terms whereby a consumer is prohibited from claiming a right of set-off
against the supplier... .
25. Terms which impose a burden of proof on the consumer which normally would
lie on the supplier... .
26. Terms which impose on the consumer an unreasonably short period of time to
make complaints to the supplier... .
27. Terms whereby, without good reason, the consumer is required to have goods
repaired by the supplier exclusively or to obtain replacement parts only from
Id. at 14-16.
n133. See Ewoud H. Hondius, Unfair Contract Terms: New Control Systems,
26 Am. J. Comp. L. 525, 525-26 (1978).
n134. AGB-Gesetz, supra note 10. See Otto Sandrock, The Standard Terms Act 1976 of
26 Am. J. Comp. L. 551 (1978).
n135. Ulmer in Ulmer/Brandner/Hensen, AGB-Gesetz, supra note 54, at 82, margin no.
n136. Standard Terms in Contracts: Proceedings of the Eighth Colloquy on European
Law, Council of Europe, (1979).
n137. See E.U. Commission Report, supra note 129, at 5; Hermann-Josef Bunte, Zehn
Jahre AGB-Gesetz - R<um u>ckblick und Ausblick, NJW [Neue Juristische Wochenschrift] 1987, 921, 921.
n138. Note, Commission of the European Communities Amended Proposal for a Council
Directive on Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts, 15 J. Consumer Pol'y 97
(1992), (citing Ewoud Hondius, Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts (1987)). See
also Hondius, Standaardvoorwaarden: Rechtsvergelijenke beschouwingen over
standaardisering van kontraktsbedingen en overheidstoezicht daarop (1978) (with
summaries in French at 835-44, in English at 845-54, and in German at 855-65).
n139. Council Directive 93/13/EEC, 1993 O.J. (L. 95) 29 [hereinafter Unfair Terms
Directive]. For a brief recounting of the chronology, see E.U. Commission
Report, supra note 129, at 5.
n140. Now Article 153 of the Treaty Establishing the European Community
(incorporating the changes made by the Treaty of Amsterdam amending the Treaty
on European Union, the Treaties establishing the European Communities and
certain related acts). Its paragraph 1 provides:
In order to promote the interests of consumers and to ensure a high level of
consumer protection, the Community shall contribute to protecting the health,
safety and economic interests of consumers, as well as to promoting their right
to information, education and to organise themselves in order to safeguard
n141. See P.J.G. Kapteyn
& P. VerLoren van Themaat, Introduction to the Law of the European Communities:
From Maastricht to Amsterdam 1108 (Lawrence W. Gormley ed., 3d ed. 1998).
n142. Unfair Terms Directive, supra note 139, art. 8.
n143. Id. art. 2(b). The European Court of Justice rejected the idea that
"consumers" includes non-natural persons. Joined Cases C-541
& 542/99, Cape Snc v. Idealservice Srl, 2001 E.C.R. I-09049.
n144. Germany, for example. See infra text accompanying notes 243-44.
n145. Unfair Terms Directive, supra note 139, art. 3(1). See infra text accompanying
n146. Unfair Terms Directive, supra note 139, art. 3(2).
n147. Id. art. 4(2). Terms dealing with those issues must still be
"in plain intelligible language."
n148. Workshop 4: Obligation of Clarity and Favourable Interpretation to the
Consumer (Art. 5), in The Integration of Directive 93/13 into the National
Legal Systems 158 (1999), available at http://europa.eu.int/comm/dgs/health<uscore>consumer/events/event29<uscore>04.pdf [hereinafter Integration of Directive 93/13]. The same article further
provides that when in doubt, terms are to be given the interpretation most
favorable to the consumer. In favor of regarding Article 5 as an incorporation
control is the twentieth recital of the Preamble of the Unfair Terms Directive,
"whereas contracts should be drafted in plain intelligible language, the
consumer should actually be given an opportunity to examine all the terms ... ." Unfair Terms Directive, supra note 139, art. 5.
n149. Id. Item (i) in the Annex to the Unfair Terms Directive, which provides that a
term may be found unfair if it precludes an opportunity to review prior to the
contract becoming binding, raises the same issue. See also infra note 336
(discussing German Code placement of transparency under the content control).
n150. See Workshop 3: The Definition of
"Unfairness": The Application of Art. 3(1), 4(1) - and of the Annexes of the Directive, in
Integration of Directive 93/13, supra note 148, at 132 [hereinafter Workshop
n151. Unfair Terms Directive, supra note 139, art. 3(1)
n152. See id. at 141.
n153. See infra text accompanying note 147.
n154. The European Court of Justice has held that it is not necessary that the list
itself be enacted into positive law. See infra text accompanying note 170.
n155. E.U. Commission Report, supra note 129, at 16.
n156. Workshop 3, supra note 150, at 137.
n157. Id. at 138.
n158. E.U. Commission Report, supra note 129, at 16.
n159. For a discussion of the effect of the Guarantees Directive on German law, see
infra text accompanying notes 357 to 359.
n160. See supra text accompanying note 105.
n161. Case C-240/98, Oceano Grupo Editorial SA v. Rocio Murciano Quintero, 2000
n162. Id. at I-4973.
n163. Id. at I-4976. The Court reasoned that
"the system of protection introduced by the Directive is based on the idea that
the consumer is in a weak position vis-a-vis the seller or supplier, as regards
both his bargaining power and his level of knowledge." It noted that
"in disputes where the amounts involved are often limited, the lawyers' fees may
be higher than the amount at stake, which may deter the consumer from
contesting the application of an unfair term." Id. at I-4973.
n164. Unfair Terms Directive, supra note 139, art. 7(2):
The means referred to in paragraph 1 shall include provisions, whereby persons
or organizations, having a legitimate interest under national law in protecting
consumers, may take action according to the national law concerned before the
courts or before competent administrative bodies for a decision as to whether
contractual terms drawn up for general use are unfair, so that they can apply
appropriate and effective means to prevent the continued use of such terms."
n165. Unfair Terms Directive, supra note 139, art. 7(3).
n166. See E.U. Commission Report, supra note 129, at 22-23.
n167. For a short survey of the law in all E.U. Member States plus Switzerland, see
Ulmer in Ulmer/Brandner/Hensen, AGB-Gesetz, supra note 54, at 99-120. See also
Integration of Directive 93/13, supra note 148 (with reports in English and
French on many Member States).
n168. E.U. Commission Report, supra note 129, at 38
n169. See Integration of Directive 93/13, supra note 148.
n170. Case C-478/99, Commission v. Kingdom of Swed., 2002 E.C.R. I-04147. The Court
held for the Commission in C-144/99, Commission v. Kingdom of the Neth., 2001
E.C.R. I-03541 (finding that the Netherlands failed to fulfill its obligations
under the Unfair Terms Directive by not transposing Articles 4(2) and 5,
concerning transparency, into Dutch law) and in Case C-372/99, Commission v.
Italy, 2002 E.C.R. I-00819 (finding that Italy failed to fulfill its
obligations under the Unfair Terms Directive by only prohibiting the actual use
of unfair terms, and not the recommendation of the use of unfair terms, as
required by Article 7(3)). Looking to the Netherlands case, the German
legislature adopted into statutory law a rule that had been applied through
judicial interpretation. See infra note 337.
n171. E.U. Commission Report, supra note 129, at 9-12. The conference took place in
Brussels July 1-3, 1999. The Papers are collected in Integration of Directive
93/13, supra note 148. The proceedings are an exercise in practical comparative
law, including both reports on the laws governing unfair terms in most of the
Member States as well as special sector reports and comparative overview
n172. See, e.g., K<um o>tz, supra note 18, at A11-A12; Llewellyn, supra note 41, at 700 n.3, 703-04.
See supra text accompanying notes 82-83.
n173. See E.U. Commission Report, supra note 129, at 9, 39-41.
n174. Consumer Policy: Commission Aims To Update Unfair Terms Data Base, Eur. Rep.,
section 2583, Apr. 7, 2001.
n175. E.U. Commission Report, supra note 129, at 43-62.
n176. See Consumer Policy, supra note 174; Allgemeine Ausschreibung Nr. DG SANCO
2001/B3/002 bez<um u>glich der Sammlung und Analyse von
"Fallrecht" in den Staaten des EWR betreffend mibetabr<um a>uchliche Klauseln in Verbrauchervertr<um a>gen f<um u>r die Jahre 2001-2005, http://europa.eu.int/comm/dgs/health<uscore>consumer/library/tenders/ call24<uscore>de.pdf.
n177. E.U. Commission Report, supra note 129, at 13.
n178. Id. at 9.
n179. E.U. Commission Report, supra note 129, at 2.
n180. Opinion of the Economic and Social Committee on the Report from the Commission
on the Implementation of Council Directive 93/13/EEC of 5 April 1993 on Unfair
Terms in Consumer Contracts, 2001 O.J. (C 116) 116, 124 at 10.1 [hereinafter
Opinion of the Economic and Social Committee].
n181. E.U. Commission Report, supra note 129, at 14-15, 31.
n182. Opinion of the Economic and Social Committee, supra note 180, at
124 P 10.2 and P 10.3. See infra text accompanying notes 252-260.
n183. E.U. Commission Report, supra note 129, at 16-17. Subsequent to this plea, the
Commission lost its case seeking to require Sweden to adopt the Annex. The
argument the Commission summarized against adopting the Annex was that then the
list might limit enforcement of the general provision. One problem in reaching
uniformity throughout Europe is that unfairness is measured based on the law
otherwise applicable, which varies from Member State to Member State.
n184. Opinion of the Economic and Social Committee, supra note 180, at 121 P5 and
n185. E.U. Commission Report, supra note 129, at 18.
n186. Opinion of the Economic and Social Committee, supra note 180, at 124 P10.4.
n187. E.U. Commission Report, supra note 129, at 24.
n188. Id. at 20, 23
n189. Id. at 23.
n190. Id. at 23-25.
n191. Id. at 25-27.
n192. Opinion of the Economic and Social Committee, supra note 180, at 122 P6.4.
n193. Id. at 123
n194. Id. at 123
n195. Id. at 124 P8.2.1.
n196. Id. at 121 P4.4. Not everyone in Europe is enthusiastic about comparative law
inquiries, at least comparative studies with the United States. By a vote of 46
for to 73 against, with 6 abstentions, the Committee voted down a proposal that
would have deleted the recommendation quoted in the text for the reason that
"U.S. experience with the drafting of framework or standard laws cannot be
transposed directly to the European Union. In contrast to the European Union,
the United States share uniform legal concepts." Id. at 127.
n197. Besides such objective factors, there are also important subjective factors:
the author knows German and the German legal system.
n198. Gesetz zur Modernisierung des Schuldrechts, Statute for Modernizing the Law of
Obligations, v. 26.11.2001 (BGBl. I s. 3138).
& K<um o>tz, supra note 23, at 336 (noting that the German law on standard terms is
"judge-made law of the purest kind, and in creating it the German courts have
done a remarkable and praiseworthy job without parallel elsewhere"). Accord Baudenbacher, supra note 10, at 341-42 (noting that the law was
codified in the AGB and contributed to the E.U. Unfair Terms Directive:
"Essentially, all of Europe (with the exception of Switzerland) lives?or will in
the near future live?under a law that originated from freely developed
judge-made law of the German Supreme Court").
n200. See K<um o>tz, supra note 18, at A38 (discussing Section 5 of the Imperial Liability
Statute [Reichshaftpflichtgesetz] of 1871).
n201. Judgment of June 16, 1883, RGZ 11, 100 110 (enforcing English language-English
law based exclusions of liability). See K<um o>tz, supra note 18, at A30; Brandner in Ulmer/Brandner/Hensen, AGB-Gesetz, supra
note 54, at 531.
n202. Dawson, supra note 13, at 1046 (providing a comparison of U.C.C. Section 2-302
unconscionability with the general clauses mentioned here).
n203. For a discussion of the difficulty of translating Section 138, particularly in
connection with standard terms, see Otto Prausnitz, The Standardization of
Commercial Contracts in English and Continental Law 106-07 (1937) (noting the
various translations, ranging from
"public policy" and
n204. Dawson, supra note 13, at 1044.
n205. See Ludwig Raiser, Das Recht der Allgemeinen Gesch<um a>ftsbedingungen 280-83 (1961) (discussing reliance on both provisions and
suggestion made to use Section 242).
n206. See Brandner in Ulmer/Brandner/Hensen, AGB-Gesetz, supra note 54, at 531.
n207. Although Raiser's book appeared in the third year of the Nazi dictatorship, it
is based on the law in force before 1933. Cf. Prausnitz, supra note 203, at 106
"great change" in German law since 1933, that the law discussed pre-dated that change, and
that as of 1937 no definite alternative line of decisions in standard terms had
developed). Raiser's crucial point of departure that was followed in the 1950s,
but since abandoned, was the similarity of standard terms to legal norms.
Raiser, supra note 205, at 5; see also Schmidt-Salzer, supra note 99 and
n208. See, e.g., Ulmer in Ulmer/Brandner/Hensen, AGB-Gesetz, supra note 54, at 37-38
(calling it the
"path-breaking investigation"); Hans Erich Brandner, Wege und Zielvorstellungen auf dem Gebiet der
Allgemeinen Gesch<um a>ftsbedingungen, JZ 1973, 613 (noting that in his
"unsurpassed work" Raiser had recognized all the fundamentals of the issues and often the
& K<um o>tz, supra note 23, at 336 ("pathbreaking").
n209. Raiser, supra note 205, at 284. See also K<um o>tz, supra note 18, at A31; Ludwig Raiser, Vertragsfreiheit heute, JZ 1958, 1,
n210. See Zweigert
& K<um o>tz, supra note 23, at 336.
n211. Judgment of Oct. 29, 1956, BGHZ 22, 91. See Helmut Heinrichs, Umsetzung der
<um u>ber mibetabr<um a>uchliche Klauseln in Verbrauchervertr<um a>gen durch Auslegung Erweiterung des Anwendungsbereichs der Inhaltskontrolle,
NJW 1995, 153, 156; Manfred Wolf
& Thomas Pfeiffer, Der richtige Standort des AGB-Rechts innerhalb der BGB, ZRP
[Zeitschrift f<um u>r Rechtspolitik] 2001, 303, 304.
n212. See Dawson, supra note 13, at 1103.
n213. See Zweigert
& K<um o>tz, An Introduction to Comparative Law 358 (Tony Weir, trans., 2d ed. 1992).
For the history of adoption of the law, see Marianne Schatz-Bergfeld,
Verbraucherinteressen im politischen Prozess: das AGB Gesetz 62-119 (1984);
Brandner, supra note 208; Wolfgang Eith, Zum Schutzbed<um u>rfnis Gegen<um u>ber Allgemeinene Gesch<um a>ftsbedingungen, NJW 1974, 16; K<um o>tz, supra note 18, at A9-A11.
n214. Rolf St<um u>rner, Die Verhandlungen der Abteilung Allgemeine Gesch<um a>ftsbedingungen, JZ 1974, 720.
n215. K<um o>tz, supra note 18, at A1.
n216. Manfred Wolf, Gesetz und Richterrecht bei Allgemeinen Gesch<um a>ftsbedingungen, JZ 1974, 465 (making the same point).
n217. Ulmer in Ulmer/Brandner/Hensen, AGB-Gesetz, supra note 54, at 43, margin no.
19. Bunte notes that between 1974 and 1977, the conviction that there was a
need for legislative action was
"firmly anchored" in the public, the political parties, and the scholarly community. Bunte,
supra note 137, at 921-22. Even a foreign observer noted the consensus months
before the statute was passed. See Dawson, supra note 13, at 1117 ("It seems that all now agree on the need for comprehensive legislation."). See also Amtliche Begr<um u>ndung zum Regierungsentwurf eines AGB-Gesetztes, Drucksache 7/3919, Teil A5, at
11, reprinted in Ulmer/Brandner/Hensen, AGB-Gesetz, Kommentar zum Gesetz zur
Regelung des Rechts der Allgemeinen Gesch<um a>ftsbedingungen 22-24 (1st ed. 1977) (discussing the political climate and steps
taken toward a law). For a contrary view of the law's adoption, see Manfred
& Gerhard Pilger, Taschenkommentar zum AGB-Gesetz 41 (1998) (describing the
hearing given business interests as a
"pure alibi event").
n218. For discussions of the problems of using judge-made law, see Thomas Becker,
Die Auslegung des 9 Abs. 2 AGB-Gesetz 19-20 (1986); Brandner in
Ulmer/Brandner/Hensen, AGB-Gesetz, supra note 54, 9, at 567, margin no. 63;
Bunte, supra note 137, at 922; Dawson, supra note 13, at 1117; Max Dietlein,
Neues Kontrollverfahren f<um u>r Allgemeine Gesch<um a>ftsbedingungen?, NJW 1974, 1065, at 1065 (calling such an action
"a lottery with a very high price"); K<um o>tz, supra note 18, at A47-A56 (noting that protection by the courts would be
really effective only if the party could bring an action against the use of the
terms and that action would be effective against all who use such terms);
Manfred Wolf, Vorschl<um a>ge f<um u>r eine gesetzliche Regelung der Allgemeinen Gesch<um a>ftsbedingungen, JZ 1974, 41, at 41. See also Amtliche Begr<um u>ndung zum Regierungsentwurf eines AGB-Geseztes, supra note 217, at 20-21. For a
comparable discussion of American law, see Bates, supra note 15.
n219. See James R. Maxeiner, U.S.
"Methods Awareness" (Methodenbewubetatsein) for German Jurists, in Festschrift f<um u>r Wolfgang Fikentscher 114, (Bernhard Grobetafeld et al. eds., 1998); James R.
Maxeiner, Policy and Methods in German and American Antitrust Law: A
Comparative Study (1986).
n220. Wolf, supra note 216, at 465. Cf. Dietlein, supra note 218; K<um o>tz, supra note 18, at A47.
n221. Bunte, supra note 137, at 922 (noting ten years later a breadth of effect not
possible with judge-made law); St<um u>rner, supra note 214.
n222. St<um u>rner, supra note 214. Robert E. Scott, Is Article 2 the Best We Can Do?,
52 Hastings L.J. 677, 689 (2001) (explaining the death of Revised Article 2:
"I think it's naive to believe that a non-governmental, non-elected, elitist
body of insiders can ever get those kind of rules right, whatever we mean by
"right.' Consumer issues raise important value choices and difficult normative
questions that are best resolved through the ordinary legislative and judicial
process."). See also Maxeiner, supra note 219.
n223. See Schlesinger, supra note 37, at 14-15.
n224. See Hans Erich Brandner, Wege und Zielvorstellungen auf dem Gebiet der
Allgemeinen Gesch<um a>ftsbedingungen, JZ 1973, 613, 613, 618 (noting the comparative law inquiries as
one of the distinguishing characteristics of this as the second
"generation" of standard terms law and describing them as
n225. Ludwig Raiser, Die richterliche Kontrolle von Allgemeinen Gesch<um a>ftsbedingungen, in Richterliche Kontrolle von Allgemeinen Gesch<um a>ftsbedingungen 123 (Ernst Caemmerer ed., 1968). There were many other
comparative studies. Raiser's nephew did one devoted to the United States.
Raiser, supra note 42. For other studies from the 1960s that include the United
States, see Eugen Auer, Die Richterliche Korrektur von Standardvertr<um a>gen (1964) (comparing judicial review of standard form contracts in Germany,
Switzerland and the United States); Eike von Hippel, Die Kontrolle der
Vertragsfreiheit nach anglo-amerikanischem Recht (1963); Eike von Hippel, The
Control of Exemption Clauses - A Comparative Study,
16 Int'l & Comp. L.Q. 591 (1967). For book-length studies of English law from that time, see Theo Kade,
Richterliche Kontrolle von formularm<um a>ssigen Haftungsfreizeichnungen im englischen Recht (1970) and Stanislaus Prinz
zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg, Allgemeine Gesch<um a>ftsbedingungen im Englischen Recht: Eine vergleichende Untersuchung (1969). The
Swiss study concluded that the supposedly flexible common law system was much
less flexible than the supposedly formalistic civil law system. Auer, supra.
The Standard Terms Statute did not put a stop to such comparative studies. For
two book-length studies since that have included the United States, see Munz,
supra note 33; Wilfrid Schlochtermeyer, Das Recht der Allgemeinen Gesch<um a>ftsbedingungen in Kanada mit Bez<um u>gen zum Deutschen, Englischen, Franz<um o>sischen und US-amerikanischen Recht (1985) (discussing Canadian law with
references to American, English, French, and German law).
n226. Raiser, supra note 225, at 141 (noting that control was
n227. Id. at 138-39. Accord Brandner, supra note 224, at 614 (noting with a
comparison to Italy, that when there are high demands for knowledge of terms,
once knowledge is shown, there is an inclination to treat standard form
contracts as negotiated contracts); Zweigert
& K<um o>tz, supra note 23, at 335-36. For a recent, similar comment about drafting in
America, see Amelia H. Boss, Taking UCITA on the Road: What Lessons Have We
7 Roger Williams U. L. Rev. 167, 192 (2001).
n228. Raiser, supra note 42, at 127-28.
n229. Amtliche Begr<um u>ndung zum Regierungsentwurf eines AGB-Geseztes, supra note 217, at 21-22.
n230. See Raiser, supra note 42, at 25-35 (discussing the transition from Section
138 to Section 242 and the problems arising from using Section 242 to set
limits on private autonomy).
n231. Cf. Hermann-Josef Bunte, Gedanken zur Harmonisierung in der EG auf dem Gebiet
der mibetabr<um a>uchlichen Klauseln in Verbrauchervertr<um a>gen, in Festschrift f<um u>r Horst Locher zum 65. Geburtstag, 325, 331 (Peter L<um o>ffelmann
& Hermann Korbion, eds., 1990) (referring generally to the Vertragsmodell of
German private law).
n232. Karl Larenz, Lehrbuch des Schuldrechts, Erster Band, Allgemeiner Teil, 68
(10th ed. 1970).
n233. Brandner in Ulmer/Brandner/Hensen, AGB-Gesetz, supra note 54, at 616 (citing
BGHZ 54, 106, (109)).
n234. Judgment of Mar. 8, 1955, BGHZ 17, 1 (3) (citations omitted). Dawson hinted
that Llewellyn might have drawn on the Court's decisions from the 1950s for his
"blanket assent." See supra text accompanying note 32. The parallels to this very case are
remarkable. Consider that only five years later Llewellyn wrote on
There has been accompanying that basic deal another which, if not on any
fiduciary basis, at least involves a plain expression of confidence, asked and
accepted, with a corresponding limit on the powers granted: the boiler-plate is
assented to en bloc,
"sight, unseen," on the implicit assumption and to the full extent that (1) it does not alter
or impair the fair meaning of the dickered terms when read alone, and (2) that
its terms are neither in the particular nor in the net manifestly unreasonable
Llewellyn, supra note 32, at 370-71. Further,
"Any contract with boiler-plate results in two separate contracts: the dickered
deal, and the collateral one of supplementary boilerplate." Id. at 371. Todd Rakoff, who reviewed only Llewellyn's comments, concluded
"he apparently means that the adherent assents in the sense of reposing
confidence, within limits, in the drafting party to fill in the terms of the
deal." Todd D. Rakoff, Contracts of Adhesion: An Essay in Reconstruction,
96 Harv. L. Rev. 1174, 1200 (1983). Rakoff found that assumption
"very weak" and recommended abandoning it. Id. It is, however, the basis of the German
law. Cf. John Dawson, The General Clauses, Viewed from a Distance, in Rabels
Zeitschrift f<um u>r Internationales und Ausl<um a>ndisches Privatrecht 41, 441, 452-53 (1977) ("It came to be seen that most of the text on printed forms was not read and, if
so, was seldom understood by the signers, that this made nonsense of the usual
tests of mutual assent, that the draftsmen of such documents were in substance
and effect law-makers. So the conclusion took firm hold that there should be
cast on them the responsibility of law-makers to distribute even-handed justice.").
n235. 307(1) B<um u>rgerliches Gesetzbuch [Civil Code] [hereinafter BGB].
n236. See Gesetzesentwurf-Entwurf eines Gesetzes zur Modernisierung des Schuldrechts
[Draft Legislation for the Modernization of Contract Law], May 14, 2001,
Drucksache 14/6040 at 149 (2001); Brandner in Ulmer/Brandner/Hensen,
AGB-Gesetz, supra note 54, 9, at 529, margin no. 1; Hermann Josef Bunte, Die
<um u>ber mibetabr<um a>uchliche Klauseln Verbrauchervertr<um a>gen und ihre Umsetzung durch das Gesetz zur
<um A>nderung des AGB-Gesetzes, DB [Der Betrieb] 1996, 1389, and text accompanying
note 22; Bunte, Zehn Jahre, supra note 137, at 923; Reinhard Damm, Europ<um a>isches Verbrauchervertragsrecht und AGB-Recht, JZ 1994, 161, 166-67; Heinrichs
in Palandt, Gesetz zur Modernisierung des Schuldrechts, Erg<um a>nzungsband zu Palandt, B<um u>rgerliches Gesetzbuch 101, margin nos. 8-9 (61st ed. 2002) [hereinafter
Palandt, BGB 61st ed. ErgB]; Horst Locher, Das AGB-Gesetz und VOB Teil B, in
VOB-Teile A und B-Kommentar, 506 margin no. 3 (Heinz Ingenstau
& Hermann Korbion, eds., 14th ed. 2001); see also Auer, supra note 225, at
99-100, 102 (making the same point before the statute was adopted).
n237. 307(2) BGB, supra note 235; see Gesetzesentwurf-Entwurf eines Gesetzes zur
Modernisierung des Schuldrechts, supra note 236, at 149; Brandner in
Ulmer/Brandner/Hensen, AGB-Gesetz, supra note 54, at 617 (noting that deviation
from default law is not the basis for the control, but the measure); Eike
Schmidt, Inhaltskontrolle von Schuldvertr<um a>gen, DRiZ [Deutsche Richterzeitung] 1991, 81, 83.
n238. See supra text accompanying note 48.
n239. See Judgment of Oct. 29, 1956, BGHZ 22, 91 (98); Judgment of Mar. 8, 1955,
supra note 234 at (3); K<um o>tz, supra note 18, at A51; Schmidt-Salzer, supra note 99, at 1262 (commenting
that to a foreign observer not familiar with the
"dogmatic-conceptual" phase of German standard terms law, this appears as
"a simply incomprehensible approach to the problem").
n240. Joachim Schmidt-Salzer, Allgemeine Gesch<um a>ftsbedingungen 186-89 (2d ed. 1977).
n241. See Judgment of July 4, 1997, V ZR 405/96, CR 1998, 286 (287); Damm, supra
note 236, at 172-174; Helmut Heinrichs, Die EG-Richtlinie
<um u>ber mibetabr<um a>uchliche Klauseln in Verbrauchervertr<um a>gen, NJW 1993, 1817, 1820; Joachim Schmidt-Salzer, Transformation der
<um u>ber mibetabr<um a>uchliche Klauseln in Verbrauchervertr<um a>gen in deutsches Recht und AGB-Gesetz, BB [Betriebs-Berator] 1995, 734-36.
n242. Even before the Standard Terms Statute, K<um o>tz judged the effort a success. See K<um o>tz, supra note 18, at A51 (noting that the courts did not rely on unchecked
control using indefinite general clauses, but developed case groups, clause
varieties, and contract types).
n243. This legislative decision is consistent with practice prior to the adoption of
the law, which policed standard terms without regard to whether a consumer was
involved. Most leading cases before the statute was adopted, in fact, involved
contracts between merchants. See Eith, supra note 213, at 17; accord Bunte,
supra note 137, at 925. Eith's article is a contemporary argument against
limitation to consumer protection. While in principle it protects all parties
equally, as will be discussed, it does allow for treatment of businesspersons
that is different from that of consumers. See infra text accompanying notes
294-96. The provisions of the Civil Code on standard terms, i.e., Sections 305
to 310, are written in terms of general applicability and refer to the user of
the terms and the other party to the contract. Section 310 then provides that
certain provisions do not apply to contracts with a businessperson
(Unternehmer). Businessperson is defined in Section 14 I to be
"a natural or legal person or a legally capable association of persons, at the
conclusion of a legal transaction, acting in exercise of a commercial or
independent professional activity."
n244. Schmidt-Salzer, supra note 241, at 734-36.
n245. Markus Stoffels, Schranken der Inhaltskontrolle, JZ 2001, 843, 844 (discussing
AGB 8, the provision that became 307(3) BGB without change, and noting the
limitations of 307(3) that keep price and performance terms firmly in the hands
of the contracting parties).
n246. Oliver Remien, AGB-Gesetz und Richtlinie
<um u>ber mibetabr<um a>uchliche Verbrauchervertragsklauseln in ihrem europ<um a>ischen Umfeld, ZEuP 1994, 34 ("Since the Standard Terms Statute was passed, contract law in Germany is above
all the law of the control of standard terms.").
n247. The cases are listed at Ulmer/Brandner/Hensen, AGB-Gesetz, supra note 54, at
n248. The Standard Terms Statute was made part of the Law of Obligations, i.e., Book
2 of the Civil Code. Some commentators argued that it should remain a
free-standing law or should be made part of the General Part, i.e., Book 1 of
the Civil Code, since its effect is not limited to contracts falling under Book
2, Law of Obligations. See, e.g., Peter Ulmer, Das AGB-Gesetz - ein eigenst<um a>ndiges Kodifikationswerk, JZ 2001, 491. Wolf
& Pfeiffer, supra note 209, at 303, 304. Complete transposition tables are given
at Heinrichs in Palandt, BGB 61st ed. ErgB, supra note 236, and in the
supplement to Ulmer/Brandner/Hensen, AGB-Gesetz, supra note 54, at 3-74. The
most important is:
n249. Heinrichs in Palandt, BGB 61st ed. ErgB, supra note 236 at 100, margin no. 2.
For a comprehensive review of the changes, see Friedrich Graf von Westphalen,
AGB-Recht ins BGB?Eine erste Bestandsaufnahme, NJW 2002, 12.
n250. See infra text accompanying notes 332-39.
n251. Twice in the last decade there was cause to evaluate the success of the law:
first, when it was amended to implement the E.U. Unfair Terms Directive, and
second, when it was incorporated into the Civil Code in the obligations law
reform. With respect to the former, see, for example, Martin W. Huff,
Kleingedrucktes f<um u>r Europa, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, May 17, 1993, at 15. Huff's
editorial, appearing in the business section of a leading conservative
newspaper, argued that the call for narrowing the German law as part of the
harmonization with E.U. law was not a good idea, since the German law had
proven to be a success. See also Gesetzeentwurf der Bundesregierung, Entwurf
eines Gesetzes zur
<um A>nderung des AGB-Gesetzes [Draft Legislation to Change the Standard Terms Law],
Feb. 10, 1995, Drucksache 13/2713 at III; Hans W. Miklitz, AGB-Gesetz und die
<um u>ber mibetabr<um a>uchliche Vertragsklauseln in Werbrauchervertr<um a>gen, ZEP [Zeitschrift f<um u>r Europ<um a>isches Privatrecht] 1993, 522, 524 (stating so
"sounds the canon in unison"). With respect to the latter, see, for example, Horst Locher, Das AGB-Gesetz
und VOB Teil B, in VOB-Teile A und B-Kommentar, 505 margin n.3 (Heinz Ingenstau
& Hermann Korbion eds., 14th ed. 2001); see also Ulmer, in
Ulmer/Brandner/Hensen, supra note 54, at 491 (noting general recognition that
it was one of the more successful laws of the last several decades). For one
dissonant voice - and that quite so - see Thamm
& Pilger, supra note 217, at 47 ("overwhelmingly, materially negative"); id. at 49 ("a defectively designed statute").
n252. Bunte, supra note 137, at 922.
n253. In the Standard Terms Statute the statutory subdivisions made the separation
explicit. The four sections dealing with content control (8-11) were collected
together in a separate second subdivision,
"Invalid Terms"; the first section in the subdivision, Section 8, had the caption
"Limits of the Content Control." Sections relating to definition, incorporation, interpretation, and legal
effect of invalidity were collected together in a first subdivision,
n254. This is the general rule, but to comply with the Unfair Terms Directive, the
law has been revised to ease these requirements in consumer transactions. See
infra text accompanying note 266.
n255. Although they are still subject to the general clauses of the Civil Code. See
Munz, supra note 33, at 240-41.
n256. Heinrichs in Palandt, BGB 61st ed. ErgB, supra note 236, 305, at 106, margin
no. 29 (with case citation); Ulmer in Ulmer/Brandner/Hensen, AGB-Gesetz, supra
note 54, 2, at 207, margin no. 27.
n257. Heinrichs in Palandt, BGB 61st ed. ErgB, supra note 236, 305, at 106, margin
no. 30 (with case citations).
n258. The legislature did not adopt a proposal to require furnishing a copy of the
terms without awaiting a request. See Ulmer in Ulmer/Brandner/Hensen, supra
note 54, 2, at 220, margin no. 46.
n259. See id. 2 at 222-23, margin no. 48.
n260. 310(1) BGB, supra note 235.
n261. See Karl Larenz, Allgemeiner Teil des deutschen B<um u>rgerlichen Rechts 489 (4th ed. 1977); Ulmer in Ulmer/Brandner/Hensen,
AGB-Gesetz, supra note 54, 2, at 245-63 (discussing when standard terms become
part of agreements between businesspersons).
n262. Ulmer in Ulmer/Brandner/Hensen, AGB-Gesetz, supra note 54, 3, at 302, margin
no. 1 308, margin no. 12; Heinrichs in Palandt, BGB 61st ed. ErgB, supra note
236 305c at 112, margin no. 3 (with case citation). The test for unusualness is
with respect to contracts of that type. Ulmer in Ulmer/Brandner/Hensen,
AGB-Gesetz, supra note 54, 3, at 310, margin no. 14; Schmidt in
Ulmer/Brandner/Hensen, AGB-Gesetz, supra note 54, 12, at 1453, margin no. 11.
n263. Ulmer in Ulmer/Brandner/Hensen, AGB-Gesetz, supra note 54, 3, at 319, margin
n264. Id., 3, at 345, margin no. 54.
n265. Id., 4, at 363, margin no. 22 (with case citations).
n266. Brandner in Ulmer/Brandner/Hensen, AGB-Gesetz, supra note 54 at 490 ("das Kernstuck"); Heinrichs in Palandt, BGB 61st ed. ErgB, supra note 236, 307, at 119, margin
n267. Brandner in Ulmer/Brandner/Hensen, AGB-Gesetz, supra note 54, 9, at 539,
margin no. 15.
n268. Brandner in Ulmer/Brandner/Hensen, AGB-Gesetz, supra note 54, 8, at 495,
margin no. 1; Heinrichs in Palandt, BGB 61st ed. ErgB, supra note 236, 307 at
125, margin no. 54. However, this does not exclude from the content control
terms that relate to price. Id. at 125, margin no. 60; cf. E.U. Unfair Terms
Directive art. 4(2).
n269. Stoffels, supra note 245, at 844.
n270. Brandner in Ulmer/Brandner/Hensen, AGB-Gesetz, supra note 54, 9, at 635,
margin no. 162; Larenz, supra note 261, at 501. See Decision of Oct. 24, 2001,
VIII ARZ 1/01, BGHZ 8, 1(01), available at http://www.bgh-free.de.
n271. Heinrichs in Palandt, BGB 61st ed. ErgB, supra note 236, 307, at 119, margin
n272. The introduction to the list alerts readers that the list assumes that the
term in question is not already prohibited by some other provision of law.
n273. The entire list is in the Appendix.
n274. Brandner in Ulmer/Brandner/Hensen, AGB-Gesetz, supra note 54, 9, at 538,
margin no. 12.
n275. The extent to which the courts, in applying the general clause to agreements
between businesspersons, should look to Sections 308 and 309 is controversial.
See Brandner in Ulmer/Brandner/Hensen, AGB-Gesetz, supra note 54, 9, at 538,
margin no. 13. For a book devoted solely to the question, see Reinhard Lutz,
AGB-Kontrolle im Handelsverkehr unter Ber<um u>cksichtigung der Klauselverbote (1991).
n276. Gerald Spindler, Haftungsklauseln in Provider-Vertr<um a>gen: Probleme der Inhaltskontrolle, CR 1999, 626, 627.
n277. Christian Schubel, Schuldrechtsreform: Perspektivenwechsel im B<um u>rgerlichen Recht und AGB-Kontrolle f<um u>r den Handelskauf, JZ 2001, 1113, 1115. See also Hans Erich Brandner
& Peter Ulmer, EG-Richtlinie
<um u>ber mibetabr<um a>uchliche Klauseln in Verbrauchervertt<um a>gen: Kritische Bemerkungen zum Vorschlag der EG-Kommission, BB 1991, 703
(finding extensive uniformity).
n278. Brandner in Ulmer/Brandner/Hensen, AGB-Gesetz, supra note 54, 9, at 571 margin
no. 70 (with case citations); Heinrichs in Palandt, BGB 61st ed. ErgB, supra
note 236, 307, at 120 margin no. 8 (with case citations). Presumably this
process is regarded simply as construction of the statute and not as law-making
itself. While German courts routinely rely on judge-made law, it is not for the
judges to make policy decisions. See Maxeiner, Policy and Methods in
German and American Antitrust Law, supra note 219, at 39-44.
n279. Judgment of July 4, 1997, supra note 241 at 287 (requiring instead an
"<um u>berindividuell-generalisierende, typisierende, von den konkreten Umst<um a>nden des Einzelfalls absehende Betrachtungsweise"). See Brandner in Ulmer/Brandner/Hensen, AGB-Gesetz, supra note 54, 9, at 571
margin no. 70.
n280. Bunte, Die EG-Richtlinie, supra note 236, at text accompanying note 13.
Regarding necessity and proportionality and their general importance, see James
R. Maxeiner, Constitutionalizing Forfeiture Law - The German Example,
27 Am. J. Comp. L. 635, 649 (1979). For proportionality, see generally Hans Kutscher et al., Der Grundsatz der Verh<um a>ltnism<um a>ssigkeit in Europ<um a>ischen Rechtsordnungen (1985).
n281. Schubel, supra note 277, at 1114-15 (discussing the tendency to avoid any
departure from dispositive law).
n282. For this paragraph generally, see Brandner in Ulmer/Brandner/Hensen,
AGB-Gesetz, supra note 54, 9, at 571-74, margin nos. 70-74.
n283. Brandner in Ulmer/Brandner/Hensen, AGB-Gesetz, supra note 54, 9, at 619,
margin no. 142. Larenz notes that nos. 1 and 2 substantially cover each other.
Larenz, supra note 261, at 501.
n284. Brandner in Ulmer/Brandner/Hensen, AGB-Gesetz, supra note 54, 9, at 609-10,
margin nos. 131-32.
n285. Friedrich Graf von Westphalen, Der Software-Entwicklungsvertrag - Vertragstyp
- Risikobegrenzung, CR 2000, 73, 76.
n286. Heinrichs in Palandt, BGB 61st ed. ErgB, supra note 236, 307, at 123, margin
n287. Brandner in Ulmer/Brandner/Hensen, AGB-Gesetz, supra note 54, 9, at 611,
margin no. 133; Larenz, supra note 261, at 500 (discussing when legal
provisions incorporate material values and when they only have an ordering
role). Where statutory guidance is absent, there are increased difficulties in
applying the control. Locher, supra note 251, 505, margin no. 2 (Heinz
& Hermann Korbion eds., 14th ed. 2001).
n288. Brandner in Ulmer/Brandner/Hensen, AGB-Gesetz, supra note 54, 9, at 625 margin
no. 150. How does such a review work in practice? The decision of the German
Supreme Court of Oct. 24, 2001, VIII ARZ 1/01, JZ 2002, 1001, available at
http://www.bverfg.de, can serve as an example. At issue was the validity of a
term that disclaimed the landlord's liability to a tenant for ordinary
negligence. A leaky roof damaged the tenant's furniture. The court considered
whether such a contractual limitation of liability would eviscerate one of the
main duties (a so-called cardinal duty) of the lease agreement, the fulfillment
of which the tenant could justly rely on. The court turned to the lessor's
obligations under the Civil Code, which provides that lessors are responsible
for maintaining the premises in a suitable condition. Excluding liability that
the lessor is responsible for, the court continued, limits the obligation of
the lessor to maintain the premises and works to the material disadvantage of
the tenant. The court held that the purpose of a lease of living quarters is to
provide a place for the tenant to live and that a tenant cannot be expected to
guard against defects in house construction. The court further found that no
insurance was available to tenants to guard against the risk of defective
construction, while such insurance was available to the lessor as the owner of
the building. The court therefore held that the standard term was invalid. It
impermissibly disadvantaged tenants contrary to the requirement of good faith.
The court did not concern itself with whether the party subject to the term had
read it, knew what it meant, or had sought to obtain insurance against the risk
of a leaky roof.
n289. See, e.g., Greenfield
& Rusch, supra note 83, at 144, 148.
n290. Friedrich Graf von Westphalen, Die Entwicklung des AGB-Rechts im Jahr 2001,
NJW 2002, 1688, 1695-96. German judges and scholars already had experience in
developing such case groups under the
"good faith" provisions of Section 242 of the Civil Code. The process even has a name:
"concretisation." Simon Whittaker
& Reinhard Zimmermann, Good Faith in European Contract Law: Surveying the Legal
Landscape, in Good Faith in European Contract Law 7, 23 (Reinhard Zimmermann
& Simon Whittaker eds., 2000).
n291. See supra note 247.
n292. Ludwig Glatzel, Olaf Hofmann
& Eckhard Frikell, Unwirksame Bauvertragsklauseln nach dem AGB-Gesetz:
Rechtsprechung - Schnell<um u>bersicht, Musterbauvertrag, Gesetzestext (9th ed. 2000).
n293. J<um u>rgen Niebling, Gesch<um a>ftsbedingungen (AGB) von A - Z: Neues Schuldrecht - Neue AGB (5th ed. 2002)
n294. One commentary gives nearly five hundred pages to this review and treats it in
a separate section designated appendix to 9-11. Ulmer/Brandner/Hensen,
AGB-Gesetz, supra note 54, at 957-1446. A
"pocket" commentary to the law devotes nearly half of its 478 pages to its 9 appendix.
& Pilger, supra note 217, at 90-319. The leading
"short" commentary to the entire civil code devotes more than a dozen pages and one
hundred margin numbers to this aspect of the catalogue under the discussion of
Section 307. Heinrichs in Palandt, BGB 61st ed. ErgB, supra note 236, 307, at
127-41, margin nos. 68-169.
n295. 305, 306 BGB. Section 306(1) provides that in those cases the contract remains
otherwise effective. It protects the other party to the contract by reversing
the usual presumption that the entire contact is void. Schmidt, in
Ulmer/Brandner/Hensen, AGB-Gesetz supra note 54, 6 at 427, margin no. 1. Unlike
American law, German law theoretically allows for damages for intentional or
negligent use of invalid terms. Brandner in Ulmer/Brandner/Hensen, AGB-Gesetz,
supra note 54, 9, at 565, margin no. 57.
n296. Case C-240/98, supra note 161. In the German legal system, the holding affects
more than just private litigation. It also requires that notaries - who have an
important role in many contracts - examine contract term unfairness. It may
also impose similar obligations on the land registry office. Brandner in
Ulmer/Brandner/Hensen, AGB-Gesetz, supra note 54, 9, at 563-64, margin nos.
n297. Brandner, supra note 224, at 617. The most extreme of these would have made
administrative approval a necessary prerequisite to use of any standard terms.
Somewhat less extreme proposals included suggestions for registering terms and
creation of a special administrative body similar to the Federal Cartel Office
to enforce the new law. The Israeli Standard Contracts Law, 1964, 13. L.S.I.
152, (1964-65), served as a model for an administrative approach, but also as a
warning, since it did not seem to work too well. See Hensen in
Ulmer/Brandner/Hensen, AGB-Gesetz, supra note 54, at 1457, margin no. 4; Uri
Yadin, Legislative Control of Standard Contracts, in Richterliche Kontrolle von
Allgemeinen Gesch<um a>ftsbedingungen 143, 154 (1968) (noting only one opinion under the law - a
decision denying Dun
& Bradstreet's request for approval of a liability exclusion). The original
Israeli statute, which can be considered the world's first standard terms
statute, is printed in Richterliche Kontrolle von Allegemeinen Gesch<um a>ftsbedingungen 175. See also Ewoud H. Hondius, Unfair Contract Terms: New
26 Am. J. Comp. L. 525, 529-32 (1978).
n298. Hensen in Ulmer/Brandner/Hensen, AGB-Gesetz, supra note 54, at 1457-58, margin
n299. Id. at 1457-58, margin no. 9.
n300. Bunte, supra note 137, at 922. The Verbandsklage was understood as a
substitute for a farther-reaching administrative control. Eike Schmidt,
Verbrauchersch<um u>tzende Verbandsklagen, NJW 2002, 25, 28. The original German provisions for a
collection action apparently served as inspiration for Article 7 of the E.U.
Unfair Terms Directive. Hensen in Ulmer/Brandner/Hensen, AGB-Gesetz, supra note
54, 13, at 1482, margin no. 23.
n301. Bassenge in Palandt, BGB 61st ed. ErgB, supra note 236, UklaG at 413; Hensen
in Ulmer/Brandner/Hensen, AGB-Gesetz, supra note 54, 13, at 1482, margin no. 23
(citing half a dozen Supreme Court decisions).
n302. See generally Harald Koch, Non-Class Group Litigation Under E.U. and German
11 Duke J. Comp. & Int'l L. 355 (2001).
n303. Bassenge in Palandt, BGB 61st ed. ErgB, supra note 236, UklaG 5, at 421,
margin no. 7; Hensen in Ulmer/Brandner/Hensen, AGB-Gesetz., supra note 54, 13
at 1496-1502, margin nos. 49-66. For a description in English of the Abmahnung
procedure generally, see Georg Jennes
& Peter Schotth<um o>fer, Germany, in Advertising Law in Europe and North America 203, at 26, 228-30
(James R. Maxeiner
& Peter Schotth<um o>fer eds., 2d ed. 1999).
n304. This is a meaningful sanction in Germany where legal proceedings are not as
public as in the United States.
n305. Bassenge in Palandt, BGB 61st ed. ErgB, supra note 236, UklaG 11, at 426.
n306. Hensen in Ulmer/Brandner/Hensen, supra note 54, at 1564, margin no. 14
(stating that someone who uses the terms contrary to a judgment is subject to
the sanction of ZPO 890).
n307. Ulmer in Ulmer/Brandner/Hensen, AGB-Gesetz, supra note 54, at 77, margin no.
n309. See Hans-W. Micklitz, Rapport sur l'application pratique de la Directive
93/13/CEE dans la Republique Federale d'Allemagne, in The Integration of
Directive 93/13 into the National Legal Systems 238, 239, 242 (1999) (noting
that from 1976 to 1993, individual actions accounted for one-third of all
actions brought, while group actions accounted for two-thirds, and from 1993 to
date, the share of individual actions increased to 43% (therefore implying that
group actions accounted for 57%)). On the other hand, suits by trade
associations have proven to be unusual.
n310. Judgment of Sept. 27, 2000, VIII ZR 155/99, BGHZ 145 (203).
n311. Hensen in Ulmer/Brandner/Hensen, AGB-Gesetz, supra note 54, 13, at 1503,
margin no. 69.
n312. E.U. Commission Report, supra note 129, at 9.
n313. Bassenge in Palandt, BGB 61st ed. ErgB, supra note 236, UklaG 5, at 422,
margin no. 14; Hensen in Ulmer/Brandner/Hensen, AGB-Gesetz., supra note 54, 15,
at 1524, margin no. 31.
n314. Schmidt, supra note 300, at 25.
n315. See supra note 10.
n316. See, e.g., Huff, supra note 251, at 15. See also supra note 10.
n317. While here we focus on differences, the basic similarities are substantial.
That the Member States could agree on a general clause was a triumph in itself.
See Miklitz, supra note 251, at 525. The two laws are considered
"closely-related," and that is one reason why no separate law was considered necessary. Remien,
supra note 246, at 65. See also Peter Ulmer, Zur Anpassung des AGB-Gesetzes an
<um u>ber mibetabr<um a>uchliche Klauseln in Verbraucher vertr<um a>gen, EuZW [Europ<um a>ische Zeitschrift f<um u>r Wirtschaftsrecht] 1993, 337, 337-38 (listing similarities and differences).
n318. One long-time expert on standard terms law observed that the very similarity
of the directive and German law
"concealed nothing less than a fundamental difference in institutional
conceptions." Schmidt-Salzer, supra note 241, at 734. But see Ulmer, supra note 317, at 341
(noting the differences in purposes of the two laws, but observing that a law's
purpose does not always expressly appear in the statute).
n319. Damm, supra note 241, at 172.
n320. Within one legal system, both models theoretically could co-exist. According
to one view, however, they might lead to
"schizophrenia" if included within one and the same statute. See Schmidt-Salzer, supra note
241, at 740.
n321. Hans Schulte-N<um o>lke, F<um u>nf Jahre AGB-Richtlinie 93/13/EWG - Weitere Rechtsetzungspl<um a>ne der Kommission?, NJW 1999, 3176 [report of the 1999 conference of the
Commission on the Directive].
n322. Hans Erich Brandner
& Peter Ulmer, The Community Directive on Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts:
Some Critical Remarks on the Proposal Submitted by the EC Commission, 28 Common Mkt. L. Rev. 647, 652-53 (1991) [hereinafter Brandner
& Ulmer, The Community Directive on Unfair Terms]. This is an English version,
although not an exact translation, of Hans Erich Brandner
& Peter Ulmer, EG-Richtlinie
<um u>ber mibetabr<um a>uchliche Klauseln in Verbrauchervertt<um a>gen: Kritische Bemerkungen zum Vorschlag der EG-Kommission, BB
[Betriebs-Berater] 1991, 701, 703-04 [hereinafter Brandner
& Ulmer, EG-Richtlinie]. See also Bunte, supra note 231, at 331 (considering a
July 1989 proposal of the Commission and noting that the E.U. proposal is based
on a model of
"contractual justice" (Vertragsgerechtigkeit)); Peter Hommelhoff, Zivilrecht unter dem Einflubeta
europ<um a>ischer Rechtsangleichung, AcP [Archiv f<um u>r die civilistische Praxis] 1992, 71, 90-91 (noting that control of individual
contracts encountered sharp opposition because it
"buries" private autonomy and disturbs the ordering function of the free market). The
& Ulmer article is regarded as the most influential of German contributions and
covers all the core questions. Christian Jorges, Die Europ<um a>isierung des Privatrechts als Rationalisierungsprozebeta und als Streit der
Disziplinen, ZeuP 1995, 181, 193.
Brandner and Ulmer grouped their criticisms into four categories: (1) the fact
that the draft created a special law for consumers; (2) the scope of the
directive; (3) the standard of control; and (4) control procedures. Only their
second criticism is addressed here. The first is an issue much broader than the
Unfair Terms Directive itself. See Miklitz, supra note 251, 532 n.74 (noting
that the discussion
"fills volumes" and with citations thereto).
Brandner & Ulmer, The Community Directive on Unfair Terms, supra note 322, at 652-54.
n324. Edgar Zoller, Dogmatik, Anwendungsprobleme und die ungewisse Zukunft des
Vorrangs individueller Vertragsvereinbarungen von Allgemeinen Gesch<um a>ftsbedingungen (4 AGBG), JZ 1991, 850, 853, 855.
n325. These criticisms were made by, inter alia,
Brandner & Ulmer, The Community Directive on Unfair Terms, supra note 322, at 651-54; Brandner
& Ulmer, EG-Richtlinie, supra note 322, at 703-04; Bunte, Gedanken zur
Harmonisierung, supra note 231, at 329, 331, 333; Hommelhoff, supra note 322,
at 90-93 (with further citation).
Brandner & Ulmer, The Community Directive on Unfair Terms, supra note 322, at 654. They contended that any control of individually negotiated
terms should be permitted only if an
"urgent real necessity" is shown and only if the control is subject to different rules. Brandner
& Ulmer, EG-Richtlinie, supra note 332, at 704.
n327. Heinrichs, supra note 241, at 1817 (discussing the history of the adoption of
the directive). See Miklitz, supra note 251, at 523 (noting how the German side
managed to get individual contracts removed even after the last draft).
n328. Council Directive 93/13/EEC, art. 3(1), 1993 O.J. (L 95/29).
n329. Id. art. 3(2).
n330. Id. art. 4(2).
n331. Heinrichs, supra note 241, at 1817.
n332. See Schmidt-Salzer, supra note 241, at 733.
n333. This choice is presented explicitly by Heinrichs, supra note 211, at 153. See
also Schmidt-Salzer, supra note 241, at 735; Miklitz, supra note 249, at 532-34
(noting that this directive, more than any others before it, posed the issue of
a separate law for consumers).
n334. Cf. Heinrich, Die Entwicklung des Rechts der Allgemeinen Gesch<um a>ftsbedingungen im Jahre 1995, NJW 1996, 1381, at 1381; Umsetzung der Richtlinie
des Rates vom 5.4.1993
<um u>ber mibetabr<um a>uchliche Klauseln in Verbrauchervertr<um a>gen: Referentenentwurf eines Gesetzes zur
<um A>nderung des AGB-Gesetzes, BB 1995, 111.
n335. Heinrichs, supra note 241, at 1818.
n336. Gesetz Entwurf der Bundesregierung, Entwurf eines Gesetzes zur
<um A>nderung des AGB-Gesetzes [Draft of a Statute to Amend the Standard Terms
Statute], Oct. 20, 1995, Drucksache 13/2713 at points B, available at
http://www.bundestag.de. When Germany delayed past the deadline for
implementing the Unfair Terms Directive, one leading expert in the Standard
Terms Statute proposed that almost all required measures could be implemented
simply by construing existing law in conformity with the Directive. Heinrichs,
supra note 211, at 153. Supporting the view of minimal changes, see Remien,
supra note 246, at 65-66; Ulmer in Ulmer/Brandner/Hensen, AGB-Gesetz, supra
note 54, at 346-47 (warning against using the implementation as an opportunity
to narrow the law).
n337. The exceptional situations arise when a form contract is used only once or
originates with a third person. The new section also applied section 305c(2) to
consumers. That section construes standard terms against the user. The new
section did not subject these consumer contracts to the incorporation control.
Subsequent to the adoption of the implementing legislation, the European Court
of Justice rejected the argument of the Netherlands that it need not adopt a
statutory transparency requirement to implement Article 5 of the directive,
because judicial interpretation of the general clause reached the same result.
Germany had done the same thing. As part of the obligation reform law, Section
307(1) was added to meet the decision of the court. Beschlussempfehlung und
Bericht des Rechtsauschusses: Entwurf eines Gesetzes zur Modernisierung des
Schuldrechts, Oct. 8, 2001, Drucksache 14/7052 at 188; Heinrichs in Palandt,
BGB 61st ed. ErgB, supra note 236 307 at 121, margin no. 16.
n338. See Miklitz, supra note 251, at 528 (discussing different views); Remien,
supra note 246, at 52-57 (arguing that the Unfair Terms Directive did not adopt
"particular-personalized," i.e., konkret-individuellen, approach).
n339. Locher, supra note 287, at 506, margin no. 3; Bunte, supra note 137, at 1389;
Reinhard Damm, Privatautonomie und Verbraucherschutz - Legalstruktur und
Realstruktur von Autonomiekonzepten, VersR 1999, 129 n.91.
n340. For example, the Guarantees Directive displaces the Unfair Terms Directive and
provides mandatory law for consumer guarantees. See infra text accompanying
n341. Hans Schulte-N<um o>lke, F<um u>nf Jahre AGB-Richtlinie 93/13/EWG - Weitere Rechtsetzungspl<um a>ne der Kommission?, NJW 1999, 3176.
n342. E.U. Commission Report, supra note 129, at 14-15, 31.
n343. Opinion of the Economic and Social Committee, supra note 180, at 124,
conclusion 10.3. The Committee also recommended that the Unfair Terms Directive
be extended to professionals, i.e., non-consumers. Id. at 124, conclusion 10.2.
n344. See Thomas Hoeren
& Dirk Schuhmacher, Verwendungsbeschr<um a>nkungen im Softwarevertrag, CR 2000, 137. It even happens that German companies
copy the terms of U.S. market leaders.
n345. That model - a mass market software license delivered from an American owner
over the Internet directly to the end user - is the only one considered here.
Use of shrink-wrap licenses or third party distributors raises additional
questions. In the case of shrink-wrap, is the act of opening the software a
sufficient manifestation of assent? In German law it is, if the attention of
the customer is called to the fact that the software package contains a notice
that the license terms are contained within and the license terms are made
available to the customer before opening the package. In the case of third
party distribution there is an issue as to whether there is an agreement
between the computer information producer and the customer or only between the
customer and the distributor. The former is now generally accepted, provided,
possibly, that a reference to the relationship with the supplier is noted to
avoid that relationship being regarded as surprising. See J<um u>rgen Weyers, Die Wirksamkeit von Schutzh<um u>llenvertr<um a>gen bei Standardsoftware in Deutschland und den USA 19-84 (2000) (unpublished
dissertation, Universit<um a>t K<um o>ln) http://www.ub.uni-koeln.de/ediss/archiv/2000/11v3852.pd f. This discussion
is also limited to software; German law has not yet followed the UCITA model of
"computer information" to include both software and information. The next paragraph in the text,
however, shows that the law applies to online services as well.
n346. The author did not attempt to determine the extent to which American companies
have already been subjected to standard terms control in Europe. The
information in this paragraph comes from a single inquiry of an association of
German consumer groups, the Verbraucherzentral Bundesverband e.V. ("VzBv"), about proceedings that it was aware of in Germany against American Internet
companies. In a letter to the author dated November 4, 2002, it provided copies
of the relevant papers from its actions against America Online, CompuServe and
Microsoft. The documents consist of: (1) for America Online, Inc., a demand
letter from VzBv dated May 21, 1997, and a
"Cease-and-Desist Declaration with Promise to Pay Contract Penalties" (Unterlassungserkl<um a>rung mit Vertragsetrafsverspreche) from America Online dated February 18, 1998
(on file with The Yale Journal of International Law); (2) for CompuServe, Inc.,
a Default Judgment (Vers<um a>umnisurteil) dated June 2, 1998, Landgericht Berlin, File No. 26.O.364/97
(same); (3) for Microsoft Corporation, a demand letter from VzBv dated April
17, 2000, and a Cease-and-Desist Declaration (Unterlassungserkl<um a>rung) from Microsoft dated October 9, 2000 (same).
n347. CISG does not apply to transactions in goods bought for personal, family, or
household uses. German conflicts law has special rules for consumers that make
it unlikely that an American licensor could avoid the standard terms law even
by a choice of law provision. Notwithstanding choice of law, under Article
29(2) No. 1, German standard terms law applies to transactions where a contract
"an express offer or advertisement" in Germany and the consumer completes the contract in Germany. That will be
the case in an Internet transaction where the user has in any sense targeted
the German market, e.g., through a presence separate from the Internet or
through tailoring its Internet site for German customers. It might even be the
case for Internet sites in the United States that make no effort to service the
German market. Georg Borges, Gesch<um a>fte per Internet und deutscher Verbraucherschutz, Zeitschrift f<um u>r Wirtschaftsrecht 1999, Issue 14,
http://www.rws-verlag.de/volltext/borges.htm, at 2.2.
n348. Whether CISG applies to software licenses is disputed and depends upon whether
software should be characterized as
"goods." See Boss, supra note 227, at 180-82. German law treats mass market licenses as
sales of goods under domestic law. Judgment of Nov. 4, 1987, VIII ZR 314/86, CR
1988, 124, 125-26. See infra text accompanying notes 355-56. Accordingly German
courts have treated transactions in software as sales of goods under CISG. See,
e.g., Judgment of Feb. 8, 1995, Landgericht M<um u>nchen I, 8 HKO 24667/93, available at
http://www.jura.uni-freiburg.de/ipr1/cisg/urteile/text/203.h tm. Whether they
would do so for software delivered over the Internet rather than in a tangible
medium is uncertain but considered by some as probable. Grenz<um u>berschreitende Software<um u>berlassung und E-M<um a>ngelr<um u>ge nach dem CISG, at B.1.2. (1999), Rauschhofer Online, at
http://www.rechtsanwalt.de/cisg.html. If CISG does apply, its contract
formation rules, Articles 14 et seq., apply. See Judgment of Oct. 31, 2001,
VIII ZR 60/01, available at http://www.bgh-free.de, where the German Supreme
Court held that CISG provides the rules regarding incorporation and implied
from CISG formation rules an opportunity to review obligations comparable to
that required by German law. Article 4 of CISG leaves to local law
"the validity of the contract or any of its provisions;" national law provides the rules regarding content control. Schmidt in
Ulmer/Brandner/Hensen, AGB-Gesetz, supra note 54, app. 2 at 276, margin no. 12.
If CISG does not apply, in the absence of an effective choice of a law, a
German court would probably apply American law to contracts with non-consumers.
Article 28 of the German conflicts law, Einf<um u>hrungsgesetz zum B<um u>rgerlichen Gesetzbuch (EGBGB), provides that in the absence of an agreement,
the law of the state having the closest connection to the contract applies. The
law with the closest connection is presumed to be the law of the party who has
to provide the
"characteristic performance" of the contract. That means the law of a foreign supplier ordinarily applies.
Schmidt in Ulmer/Brandner/Hensen, AGB-Gesetz, supra note 54, app. 2, at 269,
margin no. 2. One might argue that even if CISG applies, this rule directs
application of American content law.
n349. Party autonomy is the basic rule of German conflicts law, i.e., the parties
are free to choose the law they wish to apply to their agreement. It is laid
down in EGBGB Article 27 and requires that the choice of law either be express
or follow with reasonable certainty from the terms of the contract or the
circumstances of the transaction. That choice of law could be made in a
standard form. Under Articles 27(4) and 31(1) its validity would be determined
by the law chosen (e.g., New York law). German Standard Terms law would not
apply. Schmidt in Ulmer/Brandner/Hensen, AGB-Gesetz, supra note 54, app. 9-11,
1124, at 1227-29. Under Article 31(2), however, a party may challenge whether
there was an agreement on the point. Id. at 1226-28, margin nos. 576-77.
n350. UCITA 102(a)(43)
n351. See Schmidt in Ulmer/Brandner/Hensen, AGB-Gesetz, supra note 54, app. 9-11, at
1051-52, margin no. 269. It would not constitute standard terms if it were
uniquely used with a party that is not a consumer.
n352. Dirk Schuhmacher, Wirksamkeit von typischen Klauseln in Software<um u>berlassungsvertr<um a>gen, CR 2000, 641, 644 (noting that this requirement is
"essential" and is not satisfied if the terms are contained only in a sealed box). Thus
the approach sanctioned by UCITA Section 209(b) would not work. Cf. id. at 643
n.16 (expressing skepticism regarding software producer practice of providing
for licensee to return product). See also Ulmer in Ulmer/Brandner/Hensen,
AGB-Gesetz, supra note 54, 2, at 230-31, margin no. 55.
n353. Ulmer, supra note 54, 2, at 246, margin no. 80.
n354. See Weyers, supra note 345, at 85-91. The author observed that a leading
German antiquarian book exchange Internet site in summer 2002 altered its
procedures to require a
"click-wrap" acceptance of each individual bookseller's standard terms. See Zentrales
Verzeichnis Antiquarischer Bucher, http://www.zvab.com.
n355. Schuhmacher, supra note 352, at 643.
n356. Bettina Goldmann
& Rebecca Redecke, Gew<um a>hrleistung bei Softwarelizenzvertr<um a>gen nach dem Schuldrechtsmodernisierungsgesetz, MMR [Multimedia und Recht]
2002, 3 (noting that the new legislation had significant changes for
Kaufvertrag but not for the Mietvertrag). Schmidt in Ulmer/Brandner/Hensen,
AGB-Gesetz, supra note 54, app. 9-11 at 1051-52, 1057 margin nos. 269, 272. The
idea of treating software licenses as sui generis was rejected. Id. See also
& Schuhmacher, supra note 344, at 137-38.
n357. See supra text accompanying notes 294-96.
n358. See Goldmann
& Redecke, supra note 356, at 6. Civil Code Section 475 invalidates agreements
made prior to notification of a defect that limit the consumer's rights under
Sections 433-35, 437, and 439-43. Section 475 leaves only a few points open for
deviation through standard terms and thus for review under the content
controls. For example, a standard term may reduce the warranty period from two
years to one. This was no great victory for business, since before the new law
came into effect the mandatory warranty period was six months. A standard term
might also require that the dissatisfied recipient of a defective product
accept damages in lieu of performance. Westphalen, supra note 249, at 24.
n359. The mandatory provisions are the following: Section 433 requires the seller to
provide the buyer with the product free of physical or legal defects. Sections
434 and 435 respectively define those defects. Section 437 defines the rights
of the buyer in the case of defects. Sections 439-41 govern the parties' rights
respecting repair or replacement, rescission and contract price reduction.
Section 442 governs the buyer's knowledge of defects. Section 443 governs
express warranties. Restructuring standard licenses as duration licenses
probably would not help the licensor. Not only are duration licenses generally
more demanding, the attempted re-characterization of standard licenses as
duration licenses would run up against the probation on circumvention in the
second sentence of Civil Code Section 475(1).
n360. Now that businessperson to consumer contracts are subject to mandatory law,
No. 8b has lost most of its significance. It applies directly only to
construction contracts and contracts between consumers. Heinrichs in Palandt,
BGB 61st ed. ErgB, supra note 236, 309, at 152, margin no. 53. Practically the
only purpose for keeping it in the law was for its effect on contracts between
businesspersons. Schubel, supra note 277, at 1117.
n361. Bj<um o>rn Gaul, Standardsoftware: Ver<um a>nderung von Gew<um a>hrleistungsanspr<um u>chen durch AGB, CR 2000, 570, 571 (noting the
"radiant" effect of the two sections on application of the general clause and citing a
Supreme Court decision for the proposition that even between merchants a
standard term would be invalid if it led to loss of warranty claims); Goldmann
& Redecke, supra note 356, at 6, 7 (noting uncertainties brought by the
modernization law but concluding that the new consumer rules will act as
Leitbild for application of Section 307 to contracts among businesspersons).
n362. Hensen in Ulmer/Brandner/Hensen, AGB-Gesetz, supra note 54, 11 (10)(a), at
855, margin no. 9; Heinrichs in Palandt, BGB 61st ed. ErgB, supra note 236 309,
at 152-53, margin nos. 53, 56. The law, as recently amended, explicitly
provides that those characteristics may include representations made in
advertising. 434(1) BGB.
n363. Westphalen, supra note 249, at 25. For an extensive discussion of product and
inspection requirements in the context of standard software licenses, see Gaul,
supra note 361, at 571-76.
n364. 475(3) BGB.
n365. Gerald Spindler, Haftungsklauseln in Provider-Vertr<um a>gen: Probleme der Inhaltskontrolle, CR 1999, 626, 631 (referring to AGB 11, the
predecessor of Section 309); Goldmann
& Redecke, supra note 356, at 7.
n366. Judgment of Oct. 24, 2001, supra note 288.
n367. Schmidt in Ulmer/Brandner/Hensen, AGB-Gesetz, supra note 54, app. 9, at
1060-61, margin no. 66.
n368. Spindler, supra note 276, at 631.
n369. Hensen in Ulmer/Brandner/Hensen, AGB-Gesetz, supra note 54,11(7), at 819-20,
margin no. 27. One model clause is:
Schadenersatzanspr<um u>che k<um o>nnen Sie gegen uns nur dann geltend machen, wenn der Schaden von uns, unseren
gesetzlichen Vertretern oder Erf<um u>llungsgehilfen vors<um a>tzlich oder grob fahrl<um a>ssig verursacht wurde, oder wenn wir einen Schaden dadurch verursacht haben,
dabeta wir eine f<um u>r die Vertragsdurchf<um u>hrung wesentliche Pflicht vors<um a>tzlich oder grob fahrl<um a>ssig verletzt haben. [You can validly assert claims for damages against us only
if the damage was caused by us, our legal representatives or our fulfillment
partners intentionally or with gross negligence, or we caused damages through
an intentionally or grossly negligent violation of an obligation material to
fulfilling the contract.].
Marcus Werner, CD-Rom Nutzungsbebedingungen, CR 1998, 391, 392.
n370. Spindler, supra note 276, at 632.
n371. Schmidt in Ulmer/Brandner/Hensen, supra note 54, app. 9, at 1062-64, margin
no. 278; Schuhmacher, supra note 352, at 645-46 (addressing particularly
n372. Translations from the
Copyright Statute are from the translation of the World Intellectual Property
Organization, http://www.iuscomp.org/gla/. For the scope of permissible
restrictions, see Hoeren
& Schuhmacher, supra note 344, at 139 (noting that Section 69(d) can be departed
from only within certain bounds).
n373. Schuhmacher, supra note 352, at 646-47.
n374. Schmidt in Ulmer/Brandner/Hensen, AGB-Gesetz, supra note 54, app. 9, at
1062-64, margin no. 278.
n375. Schuhmacher, supra note 352, at 650.
n376. For an example of choice of forum clauses, compare
Carnival Cruise Lines, Inc. v. Shute, 499 U.S. 585 (1991) (enforcing a choice of Florida forum for Washington state consumer) with
Oceano Grupo Editorial SA v. Rocio Murciano Quintero, 2000 ECJ CELEX LEXIS 2894
(decision of the European Court of Justice invalidating choice of Spanish forum
for Spanish consumer); to see the diverging standards for warranty exclusions
and remedy limitations, compare U.C.C. Sections 2-316 and 2-791 (validating
such terms) with German Civil Code Section 309(7), (8), and (11) (controlling
such clauses) and the E.U. Guarantees Directive (mandating minimum warranties);
for the differences in integrated writing and no oral modification
requirements, compare U.C.C. Sections 9-202 and 9-209(2) (validating such
terms) with Brandner in Ulmer/Brandner/Hensen, ABG-Gesetz, supra note 54, app.
9-11, at 1266-1273 (discussing German law's controls on such terms).
n377. One attorney with Baker
& McKenzie who is admitted to the bar in both California and Germany reports to
German readers that, as a rule, American courts do not undertake content
control similar to that under the German standard terms law or the E.U. Unfair
Terms Directive. Lothar Determann, Electronic Business in den USA, in
Electronic Business, Anbahnung, Gestaltung, Praxis, 9, margin no. 13 (Georgios
Gounalakis, ed. 2002).
n378. See, e.g.,
Ferguson v. Countrywide Credit Industries, Inc., 298 F.3d 778, 784 (9th Cir. 2002).
n379. See supra note 74.
n380. Supra note 26 (U.C.C. quoting Section 2-302, Official Comment 1).
n381. One cannot read the section on boilerplate in The Common Law Tradition -
Llewellyn's last word on the subject - and reasonably believe that he would
have found the anemic application of Section 2-302 a sufficient response to a
problem he found so serious and pervasive. See Llewellyn, supra note 32, at
n382. See supra text accompanying notes 213 to 217.
n383. The Court's constitution helps it provide authoritative decisions to develop
and direct law creation. It has about one hundred judges, but is spared the
burden of deciding constitutional cases, which are the province of the
Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht). Its judges decide most cases
in panels of five judges ("Senates") specialized by area of law. As a result the Court is able to provide numerous
and consistent decisions.
n384. Accord Dawson, supra note 13, at 1126.
n385. See, e.g., Llewellyn, supra note 32, at 370 ("In our system an approach by statute seems to me dubious, uncertain, and likely
to be both awkward in manner and deficient or spotty in scope."); Slawson, supra note 17, at 174 ("The history of the reforms demonstrates the superiority of judicial law-making
over legislation for contract law."); Woodward, supra note 81, at 1004 ("Any effort formally to classify the enormous range of commercial contracts
subject to article 2 will be labor intensive, incomplete, temporary, and very
n386. See supra text accompanying notes 163-66.
n387. Cf. Klock, supra note 6, at 332 (quoting Hugh Collins, Regulating Contracts
233 (1999)). See also supra text accompanying note 68.
n388. See supra text accompanying notes 305 and 346.
n389. Llewellyn, supra note 32, at 371.
n390. Cf. Munz, supra note 33, at 225 ("American law controls the basis for unjust contract rules, namely disparate
bargaining power; German law [controls] the consequences, the unjust contract
n391. See supra text accompanying note 187.
n392. There are opportunities here for research into comparative law reform. Compare
Speidel, supra note 2, and Greenfield
& Rusch, supra note 83 (discussing the difficulties of finding political
compromise in the uniform laws process) with Schatz-Bergfeld, supra note 213
(discussing finding a political compromise in Germany).
n393. See supra text accompanying notes 124-27.
n394. Micklitz, supra note 251, at 534 n.83 ("There is hardly an area of the law, in which such thorough comparative law
inquiries have been produced."). For the general attitude in Europe, see Abbo Junker, Rechtsvergleichung als
Grundlagenfach, JZ 1994, 921, 921 ("Whoever today advocates turning one's view across borders -
"to substitute a global for a national horizon' - can be sure of broad approval.
He is riding a mighty wave of the Zeitgeist.").
n395. Cf. Ernst C. Stiefel
& James R. Maxeiner, Why Are U.S. Lawyers Not Learning from Comparative Law?, in
The International Practice of Law 213 (Nedim Vogt et al. eds., 1997); Ernst C.
& James R. Maxeiner, Civil Justice Reform in the United States - Opportunity for
Learning from Civilized European Procedure Instead of Continued Isolation?,
42 Am. J. Comp. L. 164 (1994); James R. Maxeiner, 1992: High Time for American Lawyers to Learn from Europe,
or Roscoe Pound's 1906 Address Revisited,
15 Fordham Int'l L.J. 1 (1991).
n396. German Law Archive (2002), at http://www.iuscomp.org/gla/statutes/BGB.htm#b2.
n397. The original of the translation into British English translates Allgemeine
Gesch<um a>ftsdedingungen as
"standard business terms." This article prefers
"standard terms" as the more idiomatic American usage.
n398. The original of the translation translates Inhaltskontrolle as
"Review of subject-matter."
n399. The original of the translation translates Wertung as
"injury to life."
Prepared: July 3, 2003 - 5:02:29 PM
Edited and Updated, July 4, 2003
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