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Unfair contract terms directive

About the Directive

The Unfair Contract Terms Directive (93/13/EEC) protects consumers against unfair standard contract terms imposed by traders. It applies to all kinds of contracts on the purchase of goods and services, for instance online or off-line-purchases of consumer goods, gym subscriptions or contracts on financial services, such as loans.

The Directive has been amended by Directive (EU) 2019/2161 of 27 November 2019 on better enforcement and modernisation of Union consumer protection rules, part of the ‘Review of EU consumer law - New Deal for Consumers”. The amendment introduces an obligation for Member States to provide for effective penalties in case of infringements. It has to be transposed by 28 November 2021 and applied from 28 May 2022.

Standard contract terms

Standard contract terms facilitate commercial transactions and can be useful in setting out the rights and obligations of the parties under a given contract. However, sellers and suppliers possess a considerable advantage over consumers by defining contract terms in advance without individual negotiation.

Unfair contract terms

Standard contract terms have to be drafted in plain intelligible language and ambiguities are to be interpreted in favour of consumers.

Contract terms are unfair and, therefore, not binding on consumers if, contrary to the requirements of good faith, they cause significant imbalance in the parties’ rights and obligations to the detriment of the consumer. A list of examples of terms that may be regarded as unfair illustrates this general requirement (see the Annex to the Directive).

EU countries must make sure that effective means exist under national law to enforce these rights and to prevent the continued use of unfair contract terms.

Guidance on Directive 93/13/EEC

On 22 July 2019, the Commission adopted a Guidance Notice on the interpretation and application of Directive 93/13/EEC. The main purpose of the Guidance Notice is to present the rich case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union on this Directive in a structured manner in order to facilitate effective application of the Directive in the EU and EEA Member States. It is addressed, in the first place, to legal practitioners and other actors involved in the defence of consumer rights. However, it may be beneficial also to businesses and consumer organisations and all those who are involved in the application of the rules on unfair contract terms.

The Guidance Notice is available in 23 languages:

UCTD Guidance

Notifications under Article 8a of Directive 93/13/EEC

Member States must notify national measures going beyond the minimum harmonisation of the Directive on Unfair Contract Terms (93/13/EEC).

This table reflects information which the Member States have notified to the Commission under Article 8a of the Directive. It does not represent a complete overview of the national transposition measures for the Directive and can provide only a rough indication of some particularities of the relevant national law.


The Commission presented a report on the implementation of the Directive in 2000.

The Directive was part of the Fitness Check of the EU consumer and marketing law.


12 AUGUST 2017
Directive on unfair terms in consumer contracts - Council Directive 93/13/EEC

19 JULY 2019
Self-regulatory initiative for a better presentation of information to consumers

19 JULY 2019
List of organisations endorsing the recommendations