The Bar Council has called on the European Commission to show restraint on controversial proposals to harmonise contract law. The European Commission has set out seven options for change, including full harmonisation of national contract laws through an EU Regulation. Its goal is to boost cross-border trade by bringing more legal certainty on contract law for businesses and simpler rules for consumers.
In its response to the proposals, however, the Bar Council has questioned the need for substantial change and explained how the proposals might increase uncertainty. It sees merit in only two of the Commission’s proposed options: the publication of study work undertaken by a group of academics, and the availability of that work to be used, if appropriate, as a “toolbox” to improve the quality of legislative drafts.
Michael Patchett-Joyce, of Outer Temple Chambers, the principal author of the Bar’s response, said: “The main problem is it is impossible to fashion a remedy because we don’t know the nature or scope of any need. There is anecdotal assertion of a problem but no hard evidence. Setting up a parallel law regime to be available in all member states is a radical change. It will make the law substantially more uncertain.”
He added that the “inexact science” of translating it into all the different languages and accounting for all the different legal concepts within member states would create additional uncertainties. I