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What if you want to terminate the contract completely?

If changed circumstances mean that a business wants to exit from a contractual arrangement, then before trying to terminate it, a careful review should be carried out to see whether a right to terminate actually exists. For example:

  • Not every contract for the sale of goods contains the right for the buyer to terminate in circumstances where the supplier hasn’t done anything wrong. If a business has entered into a contract on the supplier’s standard terms, it is unlikely to contain any such provision
  • A contract for the provision of services is unlikely, if drafted by the customer, to contain a provision that allows the supplier to walk away from the arrangement at short notice, or perhaps at all

If a party tries to terminate a contract when it doesn’t have the right to do so, the other party will likely claim breach of contract and could sue for damages. In the case of a long term or high-value contract, this could amount to a very significant liability.

Even if the right to terminate the contract does exist, there might be particular rules about the following:

  • How much notice has to be given
  • How such notice has to be served (for example, it might have to be in writing to a particular address)
  • When the notice can be served (perhaps on an anniversary of the start of the contract)
  • How much a party has to pay if it cancels (for example, for raw materials, for work done to date, or even the whole contract price)

All of these factors must be taken into account, and any contractual processes for termination are followed.