On 5 October 2010, the Dutch First Chamber of Parliament approved new rules on the tacit renewal and termination of contracts. The rules will limit the possibility of tacit renewal of long-term contracts, such as subscriptions. Also the termination of such contracts will become simpler. These new rules will be laid down in the so-called black and grey lists of the General Terms and Conditions regulation in the Dutch Civil Code (articles 6:236 and 6:237). The rules will apply to contracts with consumers and may, by reflex action (‘reflexwerking’), also be relevant for contracts with small business parties.
The new rules will have a broad scope. Almost all the agreements for the regular delivery of goods, including electricity, and the performance of services will be covered by the new rules. Special rules will apply to newspapers and magazines.
Termination and Tacit Renewal
After the implementation of the amendment to the act, General Terms and Conditions may only stipulate that the agreement will be tacitly renewed for an indefinite period of time. This means that tacit renewal of the agreement for a definite period of time, such as with six months or a year, will no longer be allowed. During the tacit renewal, the option must furthermore exist to terminate the agreement at any time with a notice period of at most one month.
The maximum notice period of one month will also apply to the original agreement. A notice period of more than one month stipulated in General Terms and Conditions will henceforth be assumed to be unreasonable.
Term of the Contracts
According to the new rules, a contract term of more than a year will be considered as unreasonably onerous, unless after the first year the contract can be terminated at any time with a notice period of at most one month. The supplier does have the option to demonstrate that a longer contract term is justified, for example because the customer receives a considerable discount in exchange.
Newspapers and Magazines
Separate rules will apply to newspapers and magazines.
Agreements for the regular delivery of newspapers, papers, journals and magazines (in other words: subscriptions) may both be tacitly renewed for an indefinite and a definite period of time. In the event of tacit renewal for a definite period of time, a maximum renewal of three months will apply, with the proviso that the customer can always terminate the subscription with a notice period of at most one month.
For newspapers, papers, journals and magazines that appear less than once a month and of which the agreement is renewed for an indefinite time, a longer notice period will apply, i.e. a maximum of three months.
Finally, the amendment to the act prohibits the tacit continuation of introduction offers of newspapers and magazines. Such an agreement must automatically end after the concluded term.
Moment and Way of Termination
Henceforth, the customer will be free to terminate the contract at any desired moment, of course with due observance of the term of the contract and notice period. The customer may no longer be obliged by means of General Terms and Conditions to terminate the contract by a particular moment, such as by the end of the month. Henceforth, the customer will also get the possibility to terminate the agreement in the same way as in which he/she concluded the agreement.
New Rules also Applicable to Current Contracts
The amendment of the act will not only apply to agreements concluded after the implementation thereof, but will also immediately start to apply to contracts that are already in force at that moment. For that matter, no effective date of the new rules has been set yet.