Model contracts and clauses

ICC Force Majeure and Hardship Clauses

Essential model contractual clauses dealing with excuse or modification of contractual performance in the case of force majeure events or hardship.

What are the main features of this model? 

An international business transaction requires a precise and detailed underlying legal foundation that helps the parties mitigate risks. However, it can be expensive and time-consuming to draft such a full contract oneself, especially as regards critical issues such as force majeure and hardship. The ICC Force Majeure and Hardship Clauses respond to the market’s need for a reliable and equitable template, providing a set of clear and concise standard provisions regarding excuse from or modification of contractual performance obligations in case of force majeure or hardship.  The model clauses may be incorporated into commercial contracts, saving parties time and money in the negotiation process. 

Force majeure and hardship are frequently invoked in international trade when unforeseen events which make performance impossible or impracticable (force majeure) or which substantially upset the economic balance of the contract (hardship) occur.  

In the first case, the party successfully invoking force majeure will be relieved from performance, while in the second case the party subject to hardship will be entitled to renegotiate the contract  and in certain cases to obtain its adaptation to the changed circumstances.  

While in the past the events to be considered for this purpose were mainly “acts of god” (fire, flood, earthquake, etc.), at present the variety of unforeseen events which may prevent performance or which may substantially upset the equilibrium of the respective obligations  of the parties, has substantially increased.  

Most national legislators provide rules dealing with these issues, but the principles developed  in domestic law such as frustration (English law), impossibility of performance (civil law systems) or impracticability (American law) may imply substantial differences. It may thus happen that the same circumstances exempt a party from responsibility in one legal system and not in another. In order to overcome the difficulty of dealing with the relevant provisions of differing legal systems, parties tend to agree on specific force majeure or hardship clauses which are intended to replace the rules provided in the applicable domestic law with uniform contractual provisions.  

It has become a common practice to include in most international commercial agreements standard clauses on force majeure and/or hardship, which, however, do not always satisfy the actual needs of the parties (especially when copied from other contracts, or from the internet, without verifying their quality). The purpose of the ICC Force Majeure and Hardship Clauses is precisely to provide traders with balanced and effective standard clauses to be included in international commercial contracts  or to be used as a basis for drafting tailor-made clauses. 

Get this model contract

Clauses for contracts, Trade & Investment

ICC Force Majeure and Hardship Clauses

ICC has updated its Force Majeure and Hardship clauses to help businesses large and small draft contracts adaptable to unforeseen events such as the COVID-19 outbreak.

Are there additional related ICC publications ? 

To explore some of the issues related to this model, you may enjoy the following

Business law, Trade & Investment, Force Majeure, Arbitration, ICC Institute dossiers

Hardship and Force Majeure in International Commercial Contracts – Institute Dossier XVII

Force Majeure and Hardship are commonly invoked in international trade when unforeseen events occur making performance impossible or impracticable.

Rules & codes, Trade & Investment

ICC Principles to Facilitate Commercial Negotiation

Directed at small, medium or large businesses across many sectors, the International Chamber of Commerce Principles to Facilitate Commercial Negotiation are a short set of principles to help negotiators conduct smooth and efficient commercial negotiations.

Import/export, Trade & Investment, Incoterms, Homepage

ICC Guide to Export/Import – 5th edition

This Guide has introduced a generation of international trade professionals to the essential rules and standard practices of the export import trade.

Negotiating International Commercial Contracts, Model contracts, Trade & Investment, Drafting and Negotiating International Commercial Contracts

Drafting and Negotiating International Commercial Contracts – 3rd edition

With the increasing globalization of markets, more and more businesses draft cross-border contracts on a regular basis. This guide clarifies the issues surrounding international contracts and will help lawyers and business people avoid the most common pitfalls.

Legal Handbook for Global Sourcing Contracts

Find all of our model contracts and clauses on our ecommerce website