As part of our day to day life we enter into contracts to purchase goods and services. Unfortunately, these transactions can often go awry causing a great deal of distress and financial loss.
When a contract dispute arises over a transaction you have entered into, whether it is a building dispute, an issue involving defective goods, or a tradesman for example, it is important to be clear about your rights and the steps that can be taken to rectify the problem. These types of contract disputes can be stressful and time-consuming if you do not use an expert contract dispute solicitor.
Our team of expert contract solicitors have dealt with wide-ranging domestic and international commercial contract disputes for a number of years. We understand that each case is unique and tailor our approach to each client individually.
What is a contract dispute?
When we enter into a contract with another party there are agreed terms and conditions of the contract. A dispute occurs when any party in a contract has a disagreement regarding any of the terms and conditions within it.
In order for a contract to be valid both parties need to fully understand the agreement and accept its terms. This means, when a dispute occurs, the contract is not legally valid and may be contested in court.
When might a contract dispute occur?
A contract dispute can occur in a number of ways, and it is important to remember that a contract is not necessarily a formal written and signed document. This can lead to a variety of disputes, including:
- Breach of Contract
Where one party does not fulfil their duty as agreed in the contract, meaning the other party suffers as a result.
- Void and/or unenforceable contracts
Where a contract has no effect in law due to missing vital elements needed such as acceptance on both parties, an uncertainty of terms, or a lack of an intention to create legal relations.
Where an untrue or misleading statement of fact is made by one party when the contract is being agreed.
How can you resolve contract disputes?
Generally speaking, both parties want a contract dispute to be dealt with in a timely and cost-effective manner, in order to avoid any disruption to their business. Luckily, there are a number of ways to resolve contract disputes before they become overly time-consuming.
Review the Contract
The first step is to review the contract and investigate some of the clauses. In many contracts there may be a “dispute resolution clause” which will set out the steps both parties need to take to resolve the issue. There may also be a termination clause, which will explain how to end the contract should both parties wish to.
Determine how serious the breach is
After reviewing the contract, you need to determine how serious the breach is. Are you able to negotiate with the other party before taking legal action? Is the breach so severe that you need to terminate the contract immediately? Knowing how serious the issue is can determine your next steps.
Start thinking of resolutions
You should then begin to think of a resolution to the contract dispute. There is a chance this the dispute can be resolved before going to court, through mediation, a process in which a negotiation process is overseen by a third-party. If mediation fails, next comes arbitration, where both parties agree to a legally binding decision to be made by an arbitrator who acts as a judge.
Lastly, the final solution to the contract dispute may be litigation. This involves one party taking another party to court for the purpose of enforcing or defending their legal right. This is the most costly and time-consuming solution, and we would advise you consider all other avenues before pursuing litigation.
What is the law surrounding contract disputes?
There are two important pieces of law which relate to contract disputes, and more specifically, breaches of contract. These are the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and the Sale of Goods Act 1979.
Consumer Rights Act 2015
The Consumer Rights Act 2015 was introduced to simplify and strengthen the law surrounding consumer legislation. It states that all good supplied under a consumer contract should:
- be of satisfactory quality
- be fit for purpose
- match the description, sample or model
- be installed correctly (if installation is part of the contract).
Sale of Goods Act 1979
The Sale of Goods Act 1979 is relevant where there is a potential breach of contract in business-to-business contracts. It regulates the sale of goods that are bought and sold in the UK and the binding contract between both parties.
Through the Act, it is implied that:
- the seller has the right to sell the goods
- goods will correspond with the description given
- the goods are of satisfactory quality
- the goods are fit for purpose
Any party who is involved in a contract who does not adhere to these implied terms may be liable for breach of contract.
How can Smooth Commercial Law help you?
Smooth Commercial Law regularly advise on commercial contract disputes and have extensive experience advising a wide variety of clients on a range of commercial disputes. As a commercial law firm, contract disputes forms a substantive part of our practice. We pride ourselves in providing not just legal advice but also advice that takes into consideration the wider commercial aspects of your case.
We always look for effective solutions in contract disputes cases, which can include:
- The awarding of damages to compensate for any loss
- Termination and discharge of contracts
- Restitution for unjust enrichment and/or wrongdoing
- Refunds under the Consumer Rights Act 2015
What our clients say
I can’t recommend smooth commercial law highly enough, they were prompt, efficient and reassuring during a period of high tensions.
They were exactly what we needed them to be. I will definitely be using them in the future.
Get in touch
If you would like to speak to one of our North West contract dispute solicitors, you can do by calling the number at the top of this page, or by completing an enquiry form.