Dutch research forms the basis of future European statute book

November 15, 2002

Researchers from the Utrecht University have completed a draft version of principles concerning European sales law. The legislation helps consumers in the case of non-conforming goods, for example. The principles will be published in 2003 and will eventually become part of the future European civil code.

The researchers from Utrecht tried to harmonise differences in the rules for all European consumers and retailers. This makes it simpler to purchase abroad. European Sales Law Principles for all countries within the EU will make people's daily lives easier. The sales law in Spain will then be the same as that in Germany and the Netherlands.

For example, if somebody in Poland purchases a computer which turns out not to work properly, the shop must repair the equipment if that is at all possible. In Finland the purchaser can decide whether he wishes to have the equipment repaired or wishes to exchange it. For sales between wholesalers and retail outlets different requirements apply.

The European sales legislation developed by the researchers must end these differences. The Utrecht rule for exchange and repairs is roughly as follows: in the case of a sale to a consumer the client can chose between repair and exchange. For other retail transactions, for example between wholesalers and retail outlets, the quickest and cheapest solution must be followed.

The researchers based their principles on Directives from the European Union, different civil codes from EU countries and the Vienna Sales Convention of 1980. One of the most difficult parts of the research is ensuring that the principles are written such that all of the countries involved can work with these.

The draft version of the principles has now been completed. The researchers are now busy writing a set of instructions for the principles. Next year the principles will appear in an official publication entitled: Principles of European Sales Law. Experience has taught that two countries will probably decide to arrange their contract by means of the 'Utrecht principles'. Then a European treaty will need to be concluded, which must eventually result in a civil code for the EU.

The research at Utrecht University is part of a large European study which must provide the basis for a European civil code. The Dutch group consists of researchers from Utrecht, Tilburg and Amsterdam. The Utrecht researchers focussed on sales law, researchers from Tilburg University examined mostly service contracts and those from the University of Amsterdam long-term contracts. Eleven different nationalities are represented within the Dutch group of researchers.
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Further information can be obtained from Dr Viola Heutger (Molengraaff Institute for Private Law, Utrecht University), tel. +31(0)30 2537278 (work), +31 (0)6 48177094 (home), e-mail v.heutger@law.uu.nl. The official publication will appear at the end of 2003 under the title: Principles of European Sales Law, Sellier, International Law Publishers, Munich. The website of the European team is http:/www.sgecc.net.

The research was funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO).

Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research
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