How to Opt into the Common European Sales Law? Brief Comments on the Commission’s Proposal for a Regulation
Martijn W. Hesselink
University of Amsterdam - Centre for the Study of European Contract Law (CSECL)
October 26, 2011
European Review of Private Law, 2012 Vol. 1, pp. 195-212
The draft Common European Sales Law: towards an alternative sales law? A Belgian perspective, I. Claeys & R. Feltkamp (eds.), Cambridge/Antwerp/Portland: Intersentia 2013, pp. 1-16.
Amsterdam Law School Research Paper No. 2011-43
Centre for the Study of European Contract Law Working Paper Series No. 2011-15
Unlike the actual text for the proposed Common European Sales Law (CESL), which is based on extensive preparatory work by academics, the regime for opting into the instrument, which is set out in the main text of the proposed regulation, is entirely of the European Commission's own making. The approach adopted by the Commission is innovative and generally convincing, although there is still room for improvement.
Characterising the optional instrument as a 2nd national regime rather than as a 28th regime has the important advantage of neutralising the effect of Art 6 Rome I in B2C contracts, which makes the instrument sufficiently self-standing to become an attractive alternative. At the same time, this choice is acceptable politically and constitutionally (Art 114(3) TFEU) as long as the level of consumer protection within the common sales law remains as high as it is in the current proposal.
In B2B contracts, it is misguided for the regulation to suggest, as it does in the proposal, that a choice for the CESL would imply ipso facto the opting-out of the CISG, since the question what amounts to an exclusion of the CISG is a matter of interpretation of the parties’ intentions under the CISG alone. Having said that, in most cases it will not be very difficult for a court to deduce an implicit opting-out of the CISG from an explicit opting into the CESL. Nevertheless, especially in the case of a partial choice for the CESL, which the proposal allows for B2B, interpretative difficulties may arise.
The duty for sellers in B2C contracts to draw the consumer's attention to the intended application of the CESL by providing the consumer with a Standard Information Notice is not likely to bring consumer much extra protection while the proposed sanction will bring undue legal uncertainty and should therefore be reconsidered. It also sends the wrong message, as if this new European law were something dangerous that consumers have to be warned about.
The terminological choices in the proposal are not always felicitous. For example, it is not clear what is meant by the expression that the parties ‘may use’ the law. Of course, the proposed CESL does not fit neatly with any of the received dichotomies of international versus national contracts, Member State versus Union law, direct versus indirect applicability, and substantive versus conflict-of-laws choice of law. In some respects, therefore, the CESL may have to be regarded as sui generis. And this is not at all surprising in light of the fact that the EU itself is a sui generis legal order. However, the European legislator should try to make it as clear and foreseeable as possible for contracting parties what exactly will be the consequences if they opt into the CESL.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 14
Keywords: Common European Sales Law, CISG, Rome I, optional instrument, consumer protection, choice of law, mandatory rules, information duties
JEL Classification: K12
Date posted: October 27, 2011 ; Last revised: April 1, 2014
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