Teaching Law

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Are there boundaries to freedom of contract?

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Power is an important consideration in freedom of contract*

Does contract as we know it continue to exist? That it may not is a fairly bold proposition...greatly discussed of course since Grant Gilmore's 'The Death of Contract' in 1974. Gilmore argued that:
The most dramatic changes touching the significance of common law in modern life also came about, not through internal developments in common law, but through developments in public policy which systematically robbed contract law of its subject matter…removing from ‘contract’ transactions and situations formerly governed by it... [p6]
In August this year, a Queensland Court of Appeal decision provided evidence to support Gilmore's thesis, upholding a purchaser's right to end an otherwise valid residential land purchase. The reason? The vendor's solicitors, in sending the contract to the purchaser's solicitors, failed to draw their attention to the warning statement attached to the front page. This breached s368A(2) of the Property Agents and Motor Dealers Act 2000 (Qld) ('PAMDA').

Does this provision, and its interpretation, really protect consumers? Or is it instead a blunt instrument that erodes all the assumptions we make about the foundations of contract law?