On the Stickiness of Default Rules

33 Pages Posted: 10 Jul 2006

See all articles by Omri Ben-Shahar

Omri Ben-Shahar

University of Chicago Law School

John A. E. Pottow

University of Michigan Law School


This article examines the stickiness of default rules and boilerplate terms in contract law. It argues that parties who choose to deviate from well entrenched defaults may face hurdles beyond the direct transaction costs of drafting. The mere deviation from standard terms by a proposing party may in and of itself raise suspicions for counterparties. It may conjure concerns over hidden aspects of the deal and tricky motivations - a fear of the unknown. Thus, regardless of the direct value of a non-standard, tailored term, a deviance cost associated with its proposal may offset or even cancel its benefit. Under this account, default rules are stickier, and boilerplate terms less prone to innovation, than currently perceived. The article demonstrates the existence of such stickiness by identifying default rules that vary across jurisdictions. In the absence of high transaction costs (or significant network/learning effects), one would expect robust opt-out from an undesirable default in at least some jurisdictions; unimpeded parties should gravitate toward the efficient rule. The absence of such opt-out, in any jurisdiction, is consistent with this account of stickiness.

JEL Classification: K40

Suggested Citation

Ben-Shahar, Omri and Pottow, John A. E., On the Stickiness of Default Rules. Florida State University Law Review, Vol. 33, 2006, Michigan Law and Economics Research Paper No. 05-010, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=914168

Omri Ben-Shahar (Contact Author)

University of Chicago Law School ( email )

1111 E. 60th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

John A. E. Pottow

University of Michigan Law School ( email )

625 South State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1215
United States
734-647-3736 (Phone)

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