Notes: The incorporation of standard terms into contracts: Is it sufficient that the terms are ‘available on request’?

Author: Tjakie Naude

ISSN: 1996-2177
Affiliations: Professor, Department of Private Law, University of Cape Town
Source: South African Law Journal, Volume 138 Issue 4, p. 748-760


South African case law has long held that standard terms may be incorporated into a contract by mere reference, and that it is unnecessary for the user of the terms to make the text of the terms available to the other party. The so-called railway ‘ticket cases’ from the early twentieth century started this approach. More recent case law involving contracts concluded by fax has confirmed the possibility of incorporation of standard terms by mere reference, without the text of the terms having been made available. This contribution argues that times have changed with increased access to the internet, and that the user of standard terms can reasonably be expected to make their text available to the other party, for example by making them available on a website. It draws on comparative study of the UN Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods and the Unidroit Principles of International Commercial Contracts. It also shows that legislation requires standard terms to be made available anyway in the consumer context, as well as in the case of electronic contracts. Writers of books on the law of contract should discuss the relevant rules.