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CISG CASE PRESENTATION

Austria 15 June 1994 Vienna Arbitration proceeding SCH-4366 (Rolled metal sheets case) [translation available]
[Cite as: http://cisgw3.law.pace.edu/cases/940615a3.html]

Primary source(s) for case presentation: Case text


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Case identification

DATE OF DECISION: 19940615 (15 June 1994)

JURISDICTION: Arbitration ; Austria

TRIBUNAL: Internationales Schiedsgericht der Bundeskammer der gewerblichen Wirtschaft [Arbitral Tribunal - Vienna]

JUDGE(S): Bonell, Michael Joachim (sole arbitrator)

CASE NUMBER/DOCKET NUMBER: SCH-4366

CASE NAME: Unavailable

CASE HISTORY: This proceeding involves good delivered "FOB Hamburg"; see Arbitration Austria 15 June 1994 SCH-4318 for a companion proceeding involving goods to be delivered "FOB Rostock"

SELLER'S COUNTRY: Austria (claimant)

BUYER'S COUNTRY: German (respondent)

GOODS INVOLVED: Rolled metal sheets


Case abstract

AUSTRIA: Arbitral Tribunal - Vienna 15 June 1994, SCH-4366

Case law on UNCITRAL texts (CLOUT) abstract no. 93

Reproduced with permission from UNCITRAL

In 1990 and 1991, an Austrian seller and a German buyer concluded contracts for the sale of rolled metal sheets. The initial contracts provided that the goods were to be delivered "FOB Hamburg", by March 1991 at the latest. Later, the seller allowed the buyer to take delivery of the goods in installments. The buyer resold the goods and had to pay the price and the storage costs promptly after receiving each invoice. The buyer took delivery of some of the goods without paying, and refused to take delivery of other goods. Pursuant to an arbitration clause contained in the sales contract, the seller commenced arbitral proceedings, demanding payment of the price. In addition, the seller demanded damages, including those arising from a sale of the goods, which the buyer refused to accept, to a third party.

The sole arbitrator held that, since the parties had chosen Austrian law, the contracts were governed by CISG as the international sales law of Austria, a [C]ontracting State (Article 1(1)(b) CISG). With regard to the goods delivered but not paid for, the arbitrator found that the seller was entitled to payment of their price (Articles 53 and 61 CISG). Regarding the sale made by the seller in order to mitigate its losses, the arbitrator held that the seller had the right, and, presumably, the duty to mitigate its losses (Article 77 CISG). As a result, the seller was found to be entitled to the difference between the contract price and the substitute sale price.

The arbitrator further held that interest on the price accrued from the date payment was due (Articles 78 and 58 CISG). Since the parties' agreement required the buyer to pay after receiving each invoice, interest accrued from the date of such receipt, which occur[r]ed within 10 days after issuance of each invoice.

Moreover, the arbitrator held that, since the interest rate was a matter governed but not expressly settled by CISG, it should be settled in conformity with the general principles on which CISG is based (Article 7(2) CISG). Referring to Arts. 78 and 74 CISG, the arbitrator found that full compensation was one of the general principles underlying CISG. It was also found that in relations between merchants it was expected that the seller, due to the delayed payment, would resort to bank credit at the interest rate commonly practiced in its own country with respect to the currency of payment. Such currency may be either the currency of the seller's country, or any other foreign currency agreed upon by the parties. The arbitrator observed that the application of Article 7.4.9 of the UNIDROIT Principles of International Commercial Contracts would lead to the same result. The interest rate awarded was the average prime rate in the seller's country (Austria), with respect to the currencies of payment (US dollars and German marks).

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Classification of issues present

APPLICATION OF CISG: Yes [Article 1(1)(b)]

APPLICABLE CISG PROVISIONS AND ISSUES

Key CISG provisions at issue: Articles 4 ; 7(2) ; 8 ; 53 ; 58 ; 74 ; 77 ; 78 [Also cited: Article 61 ]

Classification of issues using UNCITRAL classification code numbers:

4A [Scope of Convention (issues covered): estoppel];

7C22 [Gap-filling: problems governed by Convention but not expressly settled (recourse to general principles on which Convention is based];

8C [Interpretation of party's statement or other conduct: interpretation in light of surrounding circumstances];

53A [Obligation of the buyer to pay price of goods];

74A [Damages, general rules for measuring: loss suffered as consequence of breach];

77A [Obligation to take reasonable measures to mitigate damages];

78A ; 78B [Interest on delay in receiving price or any other sum in arrears; Rate of interest]

Descriptors: Applicability ; Choice of law ; Autonomy of parties ; General principles ; Gap-filling by Convention ; Good faith ; Scope of Convention ; Estoppel ; Reliance ; Interest ; Unidroit Principles

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Editorial remarks

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Citations to other abstracts, case texts and commentaries

CITATIONS TO OTHER ABSTRACTS OF DECISION

English: Unilex database <http://www.unilex.info/case.cfm?pid=1&do=case&id=55&step=Abstract>; Forum des Internationalen Rechts / The International Legal forum [English Language edition] 1 (1996) 210

French: Revue de Droit des Affaires Internationales (1995) 1010-1011 [CLOUT abstract]

German: CISG online.ch website <http://www.cisg-online.ch/cisg/urteile/121.htm>; Schweizerische Zeitschrift für Internationales und Europäisches Recht (SZIER) / Revue suisse de droit international et de droit européen (Zürich) 1996, 55-56

Italian: Diritto del Commercio Internazionale (1995) 457-458 No. 79; Revista dell'Arbitrato (1995) 543-547

Polish: Hermanowski/Jastrzebski, Konwencja Narodow Zjednoczonych o umowach miedzynarodowej sprzedazy towarow (Konwencja wiedenska) - Komentarz (1997) 256-257

CITATIONS TO TEXT OF DECISION

Original language (German): Recht der Internationalen Wirtschaft (RIW) 1995, 590-591

Translation (English): Unilex database <http://www.unilex.info/case.cfm?pid=1&do=case&id=55&step=FullText> [text presented below]; (Italian): Rivista dell'Arbitrato (1995) 543-547; Diritto del Commercio Internazionale (1995) 487 [492-495]

CITATIONS TO COMMENTS ON DECISION

English: Van Alstine, 146 University of Pennsylvania Law Review (1998) 752 n.272 [principle of full compensation in the event of breach]; 767 n.336 [interest issues], 773 nn.356-359 [general principles: estoppel and good faith]; Koch, Pace Review of Convention on Contracts for International Sale of Goods (1998) 203 n.73 [application of UNIDROIT Principles to fill gaps in the CISG]; Behr, 17 Journal of Law and Commerce (1998) 266-288 [abstracts and comments on 29 interest rulings from 10 countries (this case presented at 281, 299)]; Ferrari, International Legal Forum (4/1998) 138-225 [217 n.715 (choice of law of Contracting State), 252 n.1067 (interest issues)]; Ferrari, 15 Journal of Law and Commerce (1995) 122-125; Honnold, Uniform Law for International Sales (1999) 450 [Art. 75]; Koneru, 6 Minnesota Journal of Global Trade (1997) 123-138; Kizer, 65 University of Chicago Law Review (1998) 1279-1306; [these commentaries each contain comments on interest rulings in this case and in other cases]; Thiele, 2 Vindobono Journal (1998) 3-35, citing this case [n.135, n.148, n.156] and 42 other interest rulings; Lookofsky, Understanding the CISG in the USA [CISG/USA] (1995) 20-21, 83 n.134, 96 n.233; Lookofsky, CISG/Scandinavia (1996) 27, 100 n.151, 114 n.262; Petrochilos, Arbitration Conflict of Laws Rules and the CISG (1999) n.46; Bernstein & Lookofsky, Understanding the CISG in Europe, 2d ed., Kluwer (2003) § 2-10 n.144; § 2-11 n.168; § 4-9 n.137; § 6-18 n.244; § 6-31 n.349 & n.356; Liu Chengwei, Recovery of interest (November 2003) nn.111, 142, 148, 246; Larry A. DiMatteo et al., 34 Northwestern Journal of International Law & Business (Winter 2004) 299-440 at nn.78, 748, 776; Article 78 and rate of interest: Mazzotta, Endless disagreement among commentators, much less among courts (2004) [citing this case and 275 other court and arbitral rulings]; [2005] Schlechtriem & Schwenzer ed., Commentary on UN Convention on International Sale of Goods, 2d (English) ed., Oxford University Press, Art. 7 para. 30 Art. 8 para. 50 Art. 39 para. 33a; CISG-AC advisory opinion on Calculation of Damages under CISG Article 74 [Spring 2006] n.83 (related cases cited in addendum to opinion); Schwenzer & Fountoulakis ed., International Sales Law, Routledge-Cavendish (2007) at p. 560

French: Seidl-Hohenveldern, Journal du Droit International (1995) 1055-1056

German: Bonell, 15 Bulletin Association Suisse de l'Arbitrage (1997) 600 [603]; Schlechtriem, Recht der Internationalen Wirtschaft (RIW) (1995) 592-594; Schlechtriem, Internationales UN-Kaufrecht (1996) 10 n.10, 31 n.72, 32 n.74, 33 n.77, 35 n.82, 50 n.21, 89 n.70, 90-91 n.79, 179 n.298; Will, UN-Kaufrecht und internationale Schiedsgerichtsbarkeit (1999) n.36

Italian: Mari, Diritto del Commercio Internazionale (1995), 495 [499-501]; Veneziano, Rivista dell' arbitrato (1995) 547-560

Spanish: Castellanos, Autonomia de la voluntad y derecho uniforme en la compraventa internacional, thesis, Carlos III de Madrid (1998) 92, 158 n.345

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Case text (English translation)

Reproduced with permission of Unilex database

AUSTRIA: Arbitral Tribunal - Vienna 15 June 1994, SCH-4366

[. . .]

1. By the request of arbitration of 30 March 1993, the [seller] [a company with place of business in Austria] applied for an award against the [buyer] [a company with place of business in Germany] for payment of a total of US$ [. . .] DM [. . .]. It submitted that the [buyer] had not fulfilled its obligations on the basis of two contracts for the delivery of cold-rolled sheet concluded with the claimant, since it had either not taken delivery of or had not paid for part of the goods purchased.

[. . .]

3. The competence of the Arbitral Centre is founded on the last paragraphs of the two contracts concluded between the parties. According thereto, all disputes that cannot be settled amicably should be finally decided according to the Arbitral Rules of the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber by one or more arbitrators appointed in accordance with those rules.

3.1. It is true that the contracts - and thus the aforesaid arbitration clause - exist only in the acknowledgement of order sent by the [seller] to the [buyer], which the latter never countersigned. However, there can be no doubt of the validity of the arbitration clause. The fact that Article I, paragraph 1 of the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (The New York Convention), which applies in this case, provides that the agreement must be in writing, does not mean that the arbitration clause must be contained in a contractual document signed by both parties. According to article II, paragraph 2 of the New York Convention, an "arbitral clause in a contract or an arbitration agreement, signed by the parties or contained in an exchange of letters or telegrams" is sufficient. The predominant view in international legal writings is that the requirement is therefore also met if the addressee replies in writing to the acknowledgement of an order in such a way that need only conclusively show that he accepts the acknowledgement of the order together with the arbitration clause mentioned therein, for example, if he expressly refers in subsequent letters or invoices to the contractual document in question (see inter alia A.J. van der BERG, the New York Arbitration Convention of 1958, 1981, 198 ff.; P. SCHLOSSER, Das Recht der internationalen privaten Schiedsgerichtsbarkeit, 2. Aufl. 1989, 280; App. Firenze, 8.10.1977, Yearbook Commercial Arbitration IV (1979) 289).

3.2 That is exactly what happened in the present case. Though initially the [buyer] only tacitly accepted the two acknowledgements of the order by the [seller], it subsequently - to be precise in a letter to the [seller] of 19 January 1993 - expressly referred to the relevant contracts No. 19038 and No. 19101 and thus satisfied the requirement as to the written form of the arbitration clause contained therein.

3.3. Furthermore, in the present case, on the basis of the general legal principle of good faith, the [buyer] would be precluded from relying on the absence of an arbitration clause in writing for the purpose of negating the competence of the arbitral centre. Within a little less than three months, the [buyer] concluded three contracts with the [seller] with essentially identical wording but never countersigned the acknowledgement of the orders together with the arbitration clause contained therein that were sent to it by the [seller]. That did not prevent the [buyer] from relying on that specific arbitration clause and from entrusting the Arbitral Centre of the Federal Economic Chamber of Austria specified therein with the settlement of a dispute concerning the second of the three contracts. To rely on one occasion on the arbitration clause signed only by the opposing party in order to assert one's own claims and, on a second occasion, when the opposing party goes to law, to dispute the validity of an arbitration clause agreed upon in exactly the same form, would not be compatible with the requirement of the observance of good faith and fair business dealings, which is also fully valid within the scope of the New York Convention (see also A.J. van den BERG, loc. cit., 182 ff.).

4. According to both contracts, the applicable law was Austrian law. That means that - in so far as the issues involved fall within this scope - the United Nations Sales Convention (Vienna) of 11 April 1980 (CISG) applies. In fact, that Convention entered into force in Austria on 1 January 1989, with the consequence that, from that date onwards, all international contracts of sale of goods within the meaning of Article 1 have been subject to the CISG, provided that the conditions stipulated for that purpose in the Convention itself are met, i.e., that either both parties are established in Contracting States or that the rules of private international law lead to the application of the law of a Contracting State. In the present case, the first condition was not met because Germany (at that time, the FRG, without the new "Lander") was not yet a Contracting State at the time of conclusion of the contract. On the other hand, however, the second prerequisite for application of the CISG was met, i.e. the rules of private international law led to the application of the law of a Contracting State (Austria). In fact, according to the predominant view in international legal writings, the parties' choice of the law of a Contracting State is understood as a reference to the corresponding national law, including the CISG as the international sales law of that State and not merely to the - non-unified - domestic sales law (see also, for further reference, M.J. BONELL in BIANCA-BONELL, Commentary on the International Sales Law, 1987, 56 ff.; R. HERBER in v. CAEMMERER-SCHLECHTRIEM, Kommentar zum Einheitlichen UN-Kaufrecht 1990, Anm. 38 on Art. 1 and Anm. 16 on Article 5; with reservations, R. LOEWE, Internationales Kaufrecht, 24 ff.).

5. [. . .] The [seller's] claim for payment of the outstanding invoices covering the goods delivered by it and taken delivery of by the [buyer] is justified. However, the corresponding entitlement to interest should be reduced, with respect either to the due dates or to the interest rate to be applied. The claim for reimbursement of the storage costs incurred as a result of the lateness in taking delivery of the goods or refusal to take delivery, as well as the entitlement to payment of the difference between the contractually agreed price and the proceeds of the substitute sale of the residual goods of which delivery was not taken should also be regarded as justified.

5.1. The goods invoiced by the [seller] in a total quantity of 650,090 tonnes form part of two consignments of cold-rolled sheet, which the [seller] had sold to the [buyer] on the basis of the two contracts No. 19038 and No. 19101, parts of which had been taken delivery of by the latter. It may be disputed between the parties whether the [buyer] always requested the delivery of the goods by the warehouse keeper in Hamburg in agreement with the [seller] or whether the [buyer] had taken delivery of at least a partial consignment of 350,090 tonnes without the [seller's] knowledge. It is a fact that the [buyer] in its [. . .] letter of 19 January 1993 [. . .] expressly confirmed taking delivery of this partial consignment and/or requested submission of the relevant invoices and had also never raised objections to the three invoices of 16 January 1992, which had already been submitted. The fact that the [buyer] did not settle the invoices [. . .] in question should be regarded as an infringement of its obligation under Art. 53 of the CISG to pay the price for the goods, for which it is fully answerable in accordance with Art. 61 of the CISG in the absence of justified notice of lack of conformity or other objections.

5.2. In accordance with Art. 78 of the CISG, the seller is entitled to interest in the event of arrears in payment of the price by the buyer.

5.2.1. The interest is payable from the effective date of the obligation for payment of the purchase price. According to Art. 58(1) of the CISG, this time is primarily determined by the agreements between the parties themselves; only in the absence of such a special agreement is it the time when the seller places the goods at the buyer's disposal in accordance with the contract. In the present case, the parties had derogated from the payment modalities and time-limits originally laid down in the contract by subsequently agreeing that the [buyer] could take delivery of and pay for the goods in partial consignments according to its possibilities of resale, provides that it bore the storage costs incurred thereby [. . .]. Accordingly, the invoices in question here stipulate "Payment: immediately upon receipt of the invoice". It was therefore at that time, and not earlier, that the [buyer] was under the obligation to pay the amount invoiced at the time, and it is only from that time that the [seller] was entitled to interest [. . .].

5.2.2. Article 78 of the CISG, while granting the right to interest, says nothing about the level of the interest rate payable. In international legal writings and case law to date it is disputed whether the question is outside the scope of the Convention - with the result that the interest rate is to be determined according to the domestic law applicable on the basis of the relevant conflict-of-laws rules (see inter alia HERBER/CZERWENKA, Internationales Kaufrechts, 1991, 347; Oberlandesgericht Frankfurt, 13 June 1991 in Recht der Internationalen Wirtschaft 1991, 591) - or whether there is a true gap in the Convention within the meaning of Article 7(2) so that the applicable interest rate should possibly be determined autonomously in conformity with the general principles underlying the Convention (see in this sense, for example, J.O. HONNOLD, Uniform Sales Law, 2nd edition, Deventer, Boston 1991, 525-526; ICC arbitral award No. 6653 (1993), Clunet 1993, 1040). This second view is to be preferred, not least because the immediate recourse to a particular domestic law may lead to results which are incompatible with the principle embodied in Art. 78 of the CISG, at least in the cases where the law in question expressly prohibits the payment of interest. One of the general legal principles underlying the CISG is the requirement of "full compensation" of the loss caused (cf. Art. 74 of the CISG). It follows that, in the event of failure to pay a monetary debt, the creditor, who as a business person must be expected to resort to bank credit as a result of the delay in payment, should therefore be entitled to interest at the rate commonly practiced in its country with respect to the currency of payment, i.e. the currency of the creditor's country or any other foreign currency agreed upon by the parties (cf. Art. 7.4.9 of the Principles of International Commercial Contracts prepared by the International Institute for the Unification of Private Law (UNIDROIT), on which see M.J. BONELL, An International Restatement of Contract Law. The UNIDROIT Principles of International Commercial Contracts, Transnational Juris Publications, Irvington - N.Y., 1994, 114-115). The information received from the leading Austrian banks is that the average "prime borrowing rates" for US dollars and DM in Austria in the period in question were 4.5% and 8%, respectively. The interest due from the [buyer] should be calculated at those rates.

5.3. The [seller's] claim for reimbursement of the storage costs also appears to be justified.

5.4. After unsuccessfully demanding that the [buyer] take delivery of the remaining goods by 31 March 1993, the [seller] was fully entitled to carry out a substitute sale; in view of the obligation for mitigation of the loss of the party entitled to damages, that might even have been a necessary measure (see on this point H. STOLL in v. CAEMMERER/SCHLECHTRIEM, loc. cit., Anm. 11 on Art. 77). The claim for payment of the difference between the contractually agreed price and the proceeds of the substitute sale is also justified.

[. . .]

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Pace Law School Institute of International Commercial Law - Last updated February 7, 2007
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