LAWSG170 EU Contract Law

Credit value: 15 credits (7.5 ECTS, 150 learning hours)
Convenor: Lucinda Miller
Other Teachers: None
Teaching Delivery: 10 x 2-hour weekly seminars, Term One
Who may enrol: LLM students only
Prerequisites: No formal requirements, however previous knowledge of EU law is highly recommended
Must not be taken with: None
Qualifying module for: LLM in European Union Law;
LLM in International Commercial Law
Introductory video Currently there is no introductory video for this module
Practice Assessment: Opportunity for feedback on one optional practice essay
Final Assessment: One 3,000-word essay (100%)
Module Overview
Module summary:

At first glance, a course on EU contract law might seem rather odd since nowhere in the EU Treaties does it mention any powers, or ‘competences’, for the EU’s involvement in this sensitive area of law. Nevertheless, despite this textual absence and by using its internal market powers the EU has indeed emerged as a key player in this area – so much so that it is no longer possible to study contract law at a national level without confronting rules that have been developed by the EU.

The EU contract law project began as a series of seemingly non-contentious Directives, but was later extended (some would say ‘overextended’) to encompass directives that reached right into the heartland of contract law. Then came a much broader campaign of private law harmonisation embodied by instruments such as the Draft Common Frame of Reference and the proposal for a Common European Sales Law. At one time, the debate even flirted around the idea of a European Civil Code. More recently, however, it has become clear that such a broad programme is no longer on the political agenda and less ambitious, more targeted areas of contract law harmonisation seem set to be the way forward.

The object of the course is not to undertake a detailed examination of the substantive rules of EU contract law. Instead, we explore such things as the economic and constitutional justifications behind the EU’s project, the role of both the court and of the legislative institutions in the development of EU contract law and what the programme’s non-linear and unpredictable changes in direction might reveal about the political, theoretical and legal stakes involved. In doing so we shed light on the centrality of contract law in the constitutional, cultural and political traditions of European states and the extent to which these factors may explain Member State resistance to the EU’s project. A key objective of the course is to examine the type of contract law that the EU has been developing and whether its rationality is wholly embedded in internal market objectives. Such an inquiry not only facilitates a comparison with the rationality of Member States’ contract law, but also links us to a rich and fascinating literature concerning the ‘constitutionalisation’ of contract law and its possible role as a vehicle for ‘social justice’.

In brief, this course aims to stimulate thinking about the notion of private law itself and the legal, political and theoretical significance of its development ‘beyond the state’. It is hoped that through the study of EU contract law students will gain insight into some of the key challenges for private law in the 21st century.

Module syllabus:

Principal themes of the course:

  • Europeanization and the Nature of European Private Law
    • What is Europeanization?
    • Private Law ‘beyond the State’
    • Rethinking the notion of private law
  • The EU and Contract Law
    • The contract law acquis
    • Harmonisation by Directives: further fragmentation
    • 2001 and beyond: DCFR;CESL; 2015 proposals for Directives (digital content & online/distance sales)
  • Themes in EU Contract Law
    • Competence and the EU Treaties
    • Economic considerations
    • Social Justice and EU contract law
    • The constitutionalisation of private law
    • European contract law and pluralism
  • The Governance of Private Law in Europe
    • How to deal with pluralism: new modes of governance
Recommended materials:

There is no set textbook for this course. Readings will be set from a range of journals and texts in the area and we will also be looking closely at, Miller, L. (2012). ‘The Emergence of EU Contract Law; Exploring Europeanization’. OUP

Module reading lists and other module materials will be provided via online module pages, once students have made their module selections upon enrolment.

Preliminary reading:

  • Michaels, R. and Jansen, N. (2006). ‘Private Law Beyond the State? Europeanization, Globalization, Privatization’ (2006) American Journal of Comparative Law, 54, p. 843