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Critically examine Sydney City Council v West (1965) 114 CLR 481 and Thornton v Shoe Lane Parking Ltd (1971) 2 QB 163. 

The council of the Sydney VS west is a clear case of negligence VS breach of contract. Mr West parked his car in the council of Sydney’s parking lot; he got a ticket from the machine with a contract that clearly holds the owner responsible for any injury caused to the car or to himself. Later on, his car was stolen by someone with a duplicate ticket. Mr West filed a case against the council stating it as an act of negligence. This case implied that the council was responsible for the act of negligence however the case was later dismissed for $1300. On the other hand the case of Thronton VS Shoe lane was implying that the parking lot’s owner is responsible for the injury caused to the car owner during parking. He was hurt even before returning to his car.  A person named Francis Thronton parked his car in the parking lot of shoe lane and after three hours of watching a play BBC he was returning to his car and he was injured. On the parking lot pillars right next to where he parked his car, it was clearly mentioned that the owner holds no liability for any harm caused to the vehicle. There have been multiple cases like the Thornton V shoe lane case, these cases include Thompson V London and Midland and Scottish Railway. Both of these cases implied that there was a contract being signed with the ticket buyer however it is impossible for them to read the terms of the contract because then they would miss the train.[1]

Both these cases deal with consumer code and contracts. They deal with the complications of contracts every individual tends to make on daily basis. The council of the Sydney VS west however discussed the negligence of the parking lot management and the later discussed the notion of contracts and their complexities.[2]In Thornton V Shoe Lane the parking lot owners were executing to get themselves out of liability by stating that when the owner of the car got the ticket the contract was concluded, however later the judge ruled against them and held them responsible for not making the terms of the contract clear to the customer. The rulings of The council of the city of Sydney V West was largely the question that whether it was a case of negligence or the company was not responsible for it as the owner signed a contract by holding the ticket. The appeal was eventually dismissed with a cost of 1300 dollars.

In the Thornton V shoe lane case, the liability was on the parking lot as they had mentioned any damaged caused to the “car” and they had not mentioned a “person”. Thornton V shoe lane has been one of the most widely discussed contract law cases in the 70’s, various law professionals gave different verdicts regarding the case. For instance, Sir Gordon and Wilmer later on said that this case is relatively different from other contract cases as the ticket was given to the customer by a human clerk instead of a machine and the consumer had the chance to reject any conditions implied in the contract.

The major similarity between the council of the city of Sydney V West and Thornton V shoe lane is the fact that both these cases consist of the factor that the consumer can refuse to take up the ticket or they could have refused to accept any postulate included in the contract. In contract law, it is extremely essential to understand that the  a car owner is liable to the contract mentioned on the ticket he receives, however there are certain complications to these contract cases and Parker V The South Eastern Railways is an example of the complications in this regard.[3] The complications in both these cases were that the ticket owner did not read the terms given on the contract and hence he is not liable to the terms. The ticket owner would be guilty if had read the term and did not oblige by it, moreover the company will be liable for not making the terms clear during the time of contract if the car owner fails to oblige by them.

In a nutshell, the council of the city of Sydney VS West and Thronton V shoe lane are basically different branches of the same genre of contract law cases as both of them discuss complications of a contract. In the second case Thornton V shoe lane, the garage company cannot escape liability by giving the reason of exemption condition. The difference between the council of the city of Sydney VS west and Thornton V shoe lane is the fact that in the former case the owner’s car was lost and most contracts oblige that the garage company is not responsible for the damage as most of the vehicles are covered by insurance and also that the car owner did not object to these conditions while getting the ticket. In the later case the company is liable as they had not mentioned any damage caused to the vehicle instead of mentioning anything about human injury and most of the owners do not have health insurance.

The competition and consumer act of Australia is a major act that deals with consumer law which is applied to fair trading and in each Australian Territory.[4] Australian consumer law is present in the schedule of the competition and consumer act of Australia. This particular schedule deals with unfair trading, unfair contracts and its complications. The Australian government was off the view that less information to the consumer is damaging the markets in Australia hence a law was made against all unauthorized practices.[5] This schedule also discusses deceptive and misleading conducts and unfair contracts (chapter 2 and 3 of schedule). The cases discussed in this paper were fought before the making of this act; hence the decisions were made accordingly. This act came into power in 2010; moreover the cases could have seen a better judgment as they would come under chapter 2 part 3-1 of the Australian consumer law.[6] The first case the council of the city of Sydney V West is a clear case of “unconsciousness” that is deemed under “special disability” in the consumer act of Australia. This could have been applied to this case as the owner did not read the contract written on the ticket and hence had to face the consequences of a stolen car. The rulings of this case may also come under the product safety (part 3-3), as the product was under the garages ownership and hence they should have been careful about it. According to the consumer law of Australia, misleading or deceptive conduct is also liable to prosecution by the state.[7] The act done by the person who stole the car was clearly a case of negligence on behalf of the garage. In the second case Thornton V shoe lane, the consumer act implies the “exclusion act” even though the company had mentioned that they are not liable for human injury but they failed to make it noticeable for the consumer.[8] Hence the garage will face charges in spite of the fact that it had mentioned it in the contract (unsatisfactory goods and services: Australian consumer law and exclusion clauses) however the exclusion clause has to be legal to come into action. In 1999 Australia had incorporated consumer contract regulations of 1999 in the ruling of the case, however according to the consumer law of Australia 2010, the entire case would have been judged according to (chapter 2 part 3-1) of the consumer law.[9] Article 23(3) of the consumer contract can be applied to this case after the advent of the competition and consumer act of Australia.

Concluding the cases with regard to Australian consumer law of 2010, the entire dynamics of the cases would have changed if they were introduced back in the day when the rulings were made regarding the cases under consideration.[10] All in all, both of these cases come under unfair contracts that are regarded as unfair practices according to (chapter 2 part 3-1) of the consumer law of Australia. Competition and consumer Act of Australia has been very fair with the people and businesses too because it does not affect the integrity of the business and keeps the competition active between the companies. Moreover, both the cases had similar kind of issues and need to be resolved according to the Consumers and Competition Act.

[1]Chan, F., Lee, J. and Tang, V., 2015. Exclusion of Liability and Unfair Contract Terms in Hong Kong Travel Contracts: Problems and Solutions. Journal of Law, Technology and Public Policy®, 1(3).

[2]Tokeley, K., 2013. New Zealand Moves to Prohibit Unfair Terms: A Critical Analysis of the Current Proposal.

[3]Rahnavard, D., 2013. Course Notes: Contract Law. Routledge.

[4]Richardson, M., 2012. Why policy matters: Google Inc v Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. Sydney L. Rev., 34, p.587.

[5]Kolivos, E. and Kuperman, A., 2012. Consumer law: Web of lies-legal implications of astroturfing. Keeping good companies, 64(1), p.38.

[6]Fox, E.M. and Healey, D., 2014. When the State Harms Competition?The Role for Competition Law. NYU Law and Economics Research Paper, (13-11), pp.2013-31.

[7]Beaton-Wells, C., 2015. Private Enforcement of Competition Law in Australia-Inching Forwards. Melb. UL Rev., 39, p.681.

[8]Pete, L., 2014. Regulatory policy and behavioural economics. OeCD Publishing.

[9]Liao, Z., 2016. Who are Protected by the Consumers’ Rights and Interests Protection Act? A Critique on the Current Statutory Definition of “Consumer”.

[10]Debnath, A. and Mazumdar, M.M., 2015. An evaluative study on consumer rights in the context of business. International Journal of Humanities & Social Science Studies (IJHSSS)-ISSN, pp.2349-6959.

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