Incorporation of Onerous Terms Requires More Care
Photographic transparencies were hired out to the advertising agency defendant. The contract clauses on the delivery note included a fee which was exorbitant for the retention of transparencies beyond the set date.
Held: The plaintiff had not managed to include the terms in the contract, which was only made when the deivery was received. Damages on a quantum meruit were substituted. Where a party wishes to incorporate particularly onerous or unusual conditions, it is necessary to do something to draw the attention of the other party to those conditions. A delivery of goods at the request of a potential customer may constitute an offer to supply the goods, which the customer accepts by keeping the goods. There should be no over-arching principle of good faith, but rather piecemeal solutions in response to demonstrated problems of unfairness.
Lord Justice Dillon said: ‘It has to be said, however, that the holding fee charged by the plaintiffs by condition 2 is extremely high and in my view exorbitant . . It would seem therefore that the defendants would have had a strong case for saying that condition 2 was void and unenforceable as a penalty clause; but that point was not taken in the court below or in the notice of appeal.’
Lord Justice Bingham described ‘an overriding principle’ recognised by the law of obligations ‘in many civil law systems, and perhaps in most legal systems outside the common law world’ that ‘in making and carrying out contracts parties should act in good faith’.
However English law recognised no such principle: ‘English law . . . has developed piecemeal solutions in response to demonstrated problems of unfairness. Many examples could be given. Thus equity has intervened to strike down unconscionable bargains. Parliament has stepped in to regulate the imposition of exemption clauses and the form of certain hire-purchase agreements. The common law also has made its contribution, by holding that certain classes of contract require the utmost good faith, by treating as irrecoverable what purport to be agreed estimates of damage but are in truth a disguised penalty for breach, and in many other ways.’
The defendant was to be relieved of the liability imposed by the standard terms sought because the plaintiff had not done ‘what was necessary to draw this unreasonable and extortionate clause fairly to [the defendant’s] attention’.
But ‘In reaching the conclusion I have expressed I would not wish to be taken as deciding that condition 2 was not challengeable as a disguised penalty clause. This point was not argued before the judge nor raised in the notice of appeal. It was accordingly not argued before us. I have accordingly felt bound to assume, somewhat reluctantly, that condition 2 would be enforceable if fully and fairly brought to the defendants’ attention.’
Dillon and Bingham LJJ
 QB 433,  1 All ER 348,  EWCA Civ 6
England and Wales
Cited – Hood v Anchor Line (Henderson Bros) Ltd HL 1-Jul-1918
An English court may exercise its jurisdiction in personam over the liquidator to enforce the contract between the chargee and the company, and may require the liquidator to pay the proceeds to the chargee, The Scottish courts did not recognise the . .
Cited – McCutcheon v David MacBrayne Ltd HL 21-Jan-1964
The appellant had asked his brother-in-law to have a car shipped from Islay to the mainland. The appellant had personally consigned goods on four previous occasions. On three of them he was acting on behalf of his employer; on the other occasion he . .
Cited – Parker v South Eastern Railway Co CA 1877
The plaintiff took a parcel to a railway company depot for delivery, and received a ticket on which were printed conditions including a disclaimer. On the front of the ticket were printed the words ‘see back’. The jury was asked only if they . .
Cited – Spurling (J ) Ltd v Bradshaw CA 1956
A person will not be bound by terms of a contract of which he has not received reasonable notice. Denning LJ: ‘I quite agree that the more unreasonable a clause is, the greater the notice which must be given of it. Some clauses which I have seen . .
Cited – Thornton v Shoe Lane Parking Ltd CA 18-Dec-1970
The claimant had suffered damage at the defendant’s car park. The defendant relied upon an exemption clause printed on the ticket, and now appealed against rejection of its defence under the clause.
Held: The appeal failed. The more extreme an . .
Cited – Confetti Records (A Firm), Fundamental Records, Andrew Alcee v Warner Music UK Ltd (Trading As East West Records) ChD 23-May-2003
An agreement was made for the assignment of the copyright in a music track, but it remained ‘subject to contract’. The assignor later sought to resile from the assignment.
Held: It is standard practice in the music licensing business for a . .
Cited – Amiri Flight Authority v BAE Systems Plc CA 17-Oct-2003
The appellant had contracted to purchase maintenance from the defendant of aircraft it had also purchased from them. They sought damages for negligence, saying the defendants had failed to prevent a known risk of corrosion. The defendants argued . .
Cited – Regina v Immigration Officer at Prague Airport and another, ex parte European Roma Rights Centre and others HL 9-Dec-2004
Extension oh Human Rights Beyond Borders
The appellants complained that the system set up by the respondent where Home Office officers were placed in Prague airport to pre-vet applicants for asylum from Romania were dsicriminatory in that substantially more gypsies were refused entry than . .
Cited – Revenue and Customs v Debenhams Retail Plc CA 18-Jul-2005
The store introduced a system whereby when a customer paid by credit card, the charges made to them for card handling were expressed as a separate amount on the receipt. The store then said that VAT was payable only on the net amount allocated to . .
Cited – Brodie, Marshall and Co (Hotel Division) Ltd v Sharer 1988
The defendant resisted payment of his estate agent’s charges. The agency contract gave the agent sole selling rights, but the purchaser was found on the vendor’s own initiative. The terms made commission was payable if ‘we introduce directly of . .
Cited – Euro London Appointments Ltd v Claessens International Ltd CA 6-Apr-2006
The court considered whether a clause in an employment agency’s terms and conditions amounted to a penalty and was unenforceable. The contract provided that if the offer was withdrawn by the eventual employer after acceptance but before the . .
Cited – Stretford v The Football Association Ltd and Another CA 21-Mar-2007
The claimant was a football player’s agent. The licensing scheme required disputes, including disciplinary procedures, to be referred to arbitration. He denied that the rule had been incorporated in the contract. He also complained that the . .
Cited – Sumukan Ltd v The Commonwealth Secretariat CA 21-Mar-2007
The appellants sought to challenge a finding that they had by their contract with the defendants excluded the right to appeal to a court on a point of law. The defendants replied that the appeal court had no jurisdiction to hear such an appeal.
Cited – Bankway Properties Ltd v Penfold-Dunsford and Another CA 24-Apr-2001
A grant of an assured tenancy included a clause under which the rent would be increased from pounds 4,680, to pounds 25,000 per year. It was expected that the tenant would be reliant upon Housing Benefit to pay the rent, and that Housing Benefit . .
Cited – Green v Petfre (Gibraltar) Ltd (T/A Betfred) QBD 7-Apr-2021
Onerous Contract Terms Unclear – Not Incorporated
The claimant said that he had won a substantial sum on the online gaming platform operated by the defendants, but that they had refused to pay up. The defendants said that there had been a glitch in the game. The court faced a request for summary . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.
Updated: 01 November 2021; Ref: scu.177484