Price adaptation and the requirement of certainty with specific reference to the contract of sale

Laing, Martin Roland (1999-03)

Thesis (LLM) -- Stellenbosch University, 1999.

Thesis digitised from hard copy.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This study addresses the well-established principle of South African law that a price in a contract of sale must be certain or objectively ascertainable. The interpretation given to this principle by our courts is examined first, and found to be conservative. This approach is thereupon set against the recognition that parties frequently wish to provide for the possibility of price adaptation. The notion of price adaptation recognises that the latter often contract within a commercial environment fraught with uncertainty, yet wish to agree upon a price term which is both flexible and secure. An attempt to provide for price adaptation may bring an agreement into conflict with the rule of pretium certum. Accordingly, the study addresses the various means by which parties attempt to import price adaptation, whilst, at the same time, ensuring that their agreement does not fall foul of the latter rule. The courts may be of help through the implementation of terms or, as in the case of certain European jurisdictions, through their power to modify agreements following a drastic change in circumstance. Particular attention is given, however, to price adjustment clauses and reference in contracts to the standard of reasonableness. The development of price adaptation techniques depends upon the astuteness of courts in their striking down of agreements on the basis of pretium certum. The study concludes with an analysis of the American approach to certainty of price.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: In hierdie proefskrif kom die gevestigde beginsel van die Suid-Afrikaanse Reg dat die prysbepaling ingevolge 'n koopkontrak bepaald of objektief bepaalbaar moet wees, onder die loep. Ten eerste word die bantering van hierdie beginsel in die SuidAfrikaanse regspraak ondersoek, en tot die slotsom gekom dat die benadering 'n konserwatiewe een is. Die sienswyse van die Suid-Afrikaanse reg word vervolgens gekonstrasteer met die behoefte van die partye aan 'n aanpasbare prys, wat daaruit spruit dat kontrakte dikwels in 'n kommersiele omgewing wat gekenmerk word deur onsekerheid, gesluit word. Afgesien van sekerheid aangaande die prys, bestaan daar ook 'n behoefte aan soepelheid. Pogings om voorsiening te maak vir prysaanpassing mag die ooreenkoms bedenklik maak vanuit die oogpunt van die vereiste van pretium certum. Die proefskrif behandel verskillende metodes waardeur partye te werk kan gaan om prysaanpassing moontlik te maak sonder om die geldigheid van die ooreenkoms in die gedrang te bring. Die howe kan in hierdie verband 'n rot speel vir sover dit die toepassing van prysbepalings aangaan, of andersins deur middel van 'n jurisdiksie om ooreenkomste aan te pas in die lig van veranderde omstandighede. Besondere aandag word gegee aan prysaanpassingsklousules en verwysings in kontrakte na die redelikheidskriterium. Deurgaans blyk die ingesteldheid van die howe van deurslaggewende belang te wees. Die studie word afgerond met 'n regsvergelykende blik op die pos1s1e 111 die Verenigde State van Amerika.

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