In October, the European Commission outlined its proposal for a new “Common European Sales Law”, which it says will break down barriers to trade across Member States and increase consumer protection. The law would supplement existing domestic contract law and would be optional, applying only where contracting parties voluntarily and expressly agree that it should.

Member States would be required to make the new law available to cross-border trade, but could choose to introduce it for domestic business as well. It would apply to sale of goods’ contracts and digital content contracts, such as movies, music, software of smart phone apps, and for both business-to-business and business-to-consumer transactions. However, the Bar Council has challenged the evidential need and legal base for the change.

Peter Lodder QC, chairman of the Bar, said: “Consumer organisations have consistently voiced their reservations, and small businesses face many other, more important, challenges.  “Different contract laws are not a high-priority issue for the vast majority of SMEs, particularly in the present economic climate. What we can be certain of is that the European Sales Law will increase costs for all and lead to less certainty in law; a double whammy which is in nobody’s interests. We shall continue to make that case, both domestically and in Europe.”

In February, in its response to the European Commission’s Green Paper on European contract law, the Bar Council called on Commissioners to “show restraint”. The Bar Council warned that the proposals risked “creating legal uncertainty” and could cause substantial change for which “no case has been made”.