OFT v Foxtons Limited [2009] EWHC 1681; a case comment

A successful challenge was brought by the Office of Fair Trading under the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999 (UTCCR) against the estate agents, Foxtons Ltd in relation to the latter’s terms and conditions of it’s lettings contracts.

The Unfair terms and the Court’s judgment

The High Court ruled that the term which meant that Foxtons could charge a repeat renewal commission which was inadequately communicated to the consumer and that these terms or terms which are similar should be highlighted in any and if possible all documents and leaflets which pertain to the said agreements. This conclusion was supported by the practical realty that a consumer (or one not legally trained) is unlikely to read the standard terms of an agreement and critically analyse each of those terms in relation to the relevant law under which such agreements are regulated.

Furthermore, and continuing with the theme of drafting contracts in plain and intelligible words the Court found that Foxtons failed to comply with this theme.

The ruling of the High Court confirms that not only must the terms and conditions of an agreement be drafted in clear and intelligible language but also terms which are likely to impact on a consumer financially should be communicated to that consumer before the contract is made. The effect of which would mean that any commission fees for example or charges will not come as a surprise to the consumer.

Should you require any advice on the standard terms of a contract to which you are intending to be subject, or on the other hand if you would like advice on the enforceability of the standard terms of a contract which you as a business intend to use particularly in relation to the Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977 and the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999, then please call this office.

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