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Unfair terms

This Directive aims to protect European consumers against unfair terms in the contracts they conclude with professionals.


Council Directive 93/13/EEC of 5 April 1993 on unfair terms in consumer contracts [See amending act(s)].


This Directive does not apply to contractual terms reflecting:

  • mandatory provisions or regulations;
  • provisions arising from international agreements to which the Member States or the Community are signatories.

A non-negotiated term is unfair when it establishes a significant imbalance, to the consumer's detriment, between the rights and obligations of the contracting parties.

A list of terms which may be deemed unfair is annexed to the Directive.

Assessing the unfair nature of a contractual term takes into account:

  • the nature of the goods or services covered by the contract;
  • the circumstances surrounding the drawing up of the contract;
  • the other terms in the contract or in another contract to which it relates.

Neither the definition of the main aim of the contract nor the relationship between the price and the service or goods to be provided may be taken into account in assessing the unfair nature of clearly worded contractual terms.

Where there is doubt as to the meaning of a term, the interpretation most favourable to the consumer will prevail.

Consumers are not bound by unfair terms in a contract signed with a professional.

The Member States are to implement the appropriate measures to end the use of unfair terms.

The Commission is to report to the European Parliament and the Council by 31 December 1999 on the application of this Directive.


ActEntry into forceDeadline for implementation in the Member StatesOfficial Journal

Directive 93/13/EEC



OJ L 95, 21.4.1993

Amending act(s)Entry into forceDeadline for implementation in the Member StatesOfficial Journal

Directive 2002/995/EC



OJ L 353, 30.12.2002


Report from the Commission on the implementation of Council Directive 93/13/EEC of 5 April 1993 on unfair terms in consumer contracts [COM (2000) 248 final - Not published in the Official Journal].
The purpose of this report is not only to appraise Directive 93/13/EEC, five years after the deadline for its transposition, but also to raise a number of questions with a view to improving the existing situation.
According to the Commission, its work since 1993 has had a significant effect: infringement procedures, market studies, subsidies granted with a view to eliminating unfair terms in certain economic sectors, the dialogue between consumers and professionals, information campaigns, the conference organised in Brussels in 1999, and the Clab database.
Drawing on the experience gained in implementing the Directive in the Member States, the report suggests a number of improvements. The suggestions mainly concern the scope of the Directive and its limitations, the notion of unfair terms, the list in the annex to the Directive, the failure to supervise pre-contractual terms and conditions, the principle of transparency and the right to information, penalties, existing national arrangements for eliminating unfair terms, the problems posed by certain economic sectors, and the future of the Clab database.

Last updated: 04.02.2011
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