Current set-up for Common European Sales Law (justifiably) rejected by the UK

The UK Government, a short while ago [perusal was in my in-tray for a few weeks] concluded its consultation on the need for a Common European Sales Law, with a rejection. The main lines of respondents’ arguments, were:

‘Evidence of need: Respondents did not believe that sufficient need for the proposal had been demonstrated. They were unconvinced that contract law presented a significant enough barrier to warrant such a complex and wide ranging proposal.

I agree.

‘Legal uncertainty: Respondents believed that the content of CESL would lead to significant legal uncertainty. There was felt to be a fundamental problem in creating a distinct law for the sale and supply of goods and services, separate from other contractual procedures. Respondents argued this would only lead to uncertainty and incoherence. Jurisprudence in the area would also take years and perhaps decades to establish, creating an additional burden on the UK’s judicial system and on the Court of Justice of the European Union. This would lead to significant delays and expense in the resolution of disputes and interim uncertainty regarding the interpretation of the law.’

I agree. Current regulatory competition, including relevant case-law by national and EU courts, does the job the CESL wishes to address just fine.

‘Confusion: Respondents believed that the introduction of a second regime of contract law would create confusion for both consumers and businesses. They argued that a new law was neither necessary nor practical and specifically noted the length and complexity of the CESL proposal. Many respondents believed that the implementation of further legislation in this area would make it harder, not easier, for businesses to agree contracts and for consumers to know their rights with certainty when purchasing across borders.’

I agree. The CESL addresses alleged uncertainty by adding a layer of complexity.

‘Cost.’ (of disclosure, training, litigation). Here too I agree.

As prof MacQueen et al note on their blog entry on the topic, the UK’s rejection focusses very much on the draft CESL as it stands – it leaves quite a few doors open to either improvements of the draft, or alternative ways of achieving better results.

As often, one of the EU’s most recalcitrant Member States subjects its proposed laws to the most careful scrutiny.

Geert.

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