Tag Archive for: CISG

Way Out West? Understanding The CISG’s Application in Australia

By Dr Benjamin Hayward


Way out west, where the rain don’t fall

There’s a treaty for the sale of goods that’s good news for all

But you might not know it’s here

Unless you’re livin’ and a workin’ on the land …


In 2009, Associate Professor Lisa Spagnolo observed – based upon her census of Australia’s CISG case law at that time – that the Convention was effectively ‘in the Australian legal outback’.  For those unfamiliar with Australia’s geography, most of its population is concentrated on the continent’s eastern coast.  Australia’s outback extends, amongst other places, across much of Western Australia.  With that geographic imagery in mind, one might not be surprised to hear that a recent decision of the County Court of Victoria – in Australia’s east – overlooked the Vienna Sales Convention’s application.

The circumstances in which this omission occurred are interesting, and provide a useful opportunity for Australian practitioners to learn more about the CISG’s application in Australia.

The case at issue is last year’s C P Aquaculture (India) Pvt Ltd v Aqua Star Pty Ltd [2023] VCC 2134.  That case involved a sale of goods dispute (concerning prawn and shrimp) between Australian and Indian parties.  Whilst the CISG has been part of Australian law since 1989, it is a well-known fact that India is not a CISG Contracting State.  It is perhaps this well-known fact – taken at face value – that led the County Court of Victoria to overlook the CISG’s application.

The C P Aquaculture judgment indicates that ‘[t]he parties are agreed that the proper law of the contracts between CP (India) and Aqua Star for the sale of shrimp or prawns is Victorian law’.  As recorded in the judgment, this followed from the plaintiff’s view that ‘India has not adopted the convention on contracts for the international sale of goods’, and from the defendant’s view that there was a ‘failure on the part of either part[y] to allege and prove the terms of any other law as a proper law’.

On either view, however, there is actually a very good basis for applying the CISG, rather than non-harmonised Victorian law.  This case therefore represents an excellent opportunity for Australian lawyers to better understand how and why the CISG applies in Australia.

Taking the plaintiff’s position first, the fact that India has not adopted the CISG is actually not fatal to the Convention’s application.  In fact, the Convention specifically provides for its application in those exact circumstances.  This follows from Art. 1(1) CISG, the treaty’s key application provision:

This Convention applies to contracts of sale of goods between parties whose places of business are in different States:

(a) when the States are Contracting States; or

(b) when the rules of private international law lead to the application of the law of a Contracting State.

 Where – as in C P Aquaculture – it is not the case that both parties are from Contracting States, the CISG cannot apply by virtue of Art. 1(1)(a) CISG.  But it can still apply pursuant to Art. 1(1)(b) CISG.  The key here is whether ‘the rules of private international law’ call for the application of a Contracting State’s law.

In an informal discussion I once had with a leading Australian barrister, I was asked ‘what does “the rules of private international law” here actually mean?’  It may be that uncertainty over the meaning of this phrase contributes to the CISG’s application being overlooked in cases like C P Aquaculture.  In short, private international law rules include choice of law rules (where a sales contract is governed by a CISG State’s law because of a choice of law clause) and conflict of laws rules (where, absent party choice of law, the forum’s rules indicate that a CISG State’s law is to apply).  In a way, Art. 1(1)(b) CISG might have been more easily understood by non-specialists if it read ‘when a Contracting State’s law is the governing law’.  Although it doesn’t read this way, that is essentially the provision’s effect, and understanding Art. 1(1)(b) CISG accordingly may better help Australian practitioners identify cases requiring the treaty’s application.

Taking the defendant’s position second, where the law of an Australian jurisdiction governs, it is actually not necessary to ‘allege and prove’ the CISG’s terms because the CISG – despite its abstract existence as a treaty – is not foreign law.  Roder Zelt-Und Hallenkonstruktionen GmbH v Rosedown Park Pty Ltd – Australia’s first ever case applying the CISG – confirmed this by explaining that the CISG is ‘part of’ Australian law and is thus ‘not to be treated as a foreign law which requires proof as a fact’.

Indeed, the Goods Act 1958 (Vic) – a statute that the defendant itself sought to rely upon in C P Aquaculture – is the very vehicle giving effect to the CISG in Victoria, via its pt IV.

All this being said, C P Aquaculture provides Australian practitioners (and lawyers representing Australian traders’ counterparts) with some useful lessons in understanding how and why the CISG applies.  If the CISG really is still in the Australian legal outback, then perhaps what Australian practitioners need is a good understanding of the lay of the land.  And to that end, private international law can be their map.


Dr Benjamin Hayward

Associate Professor, Department of Business Law and Taxation, Monash Business School

X (Twitter): @LawGuyPI

International Trade and International Commercial Law research group: @MonashITICL

The Dutch Supreme Court on how to deal with the CISG on appeal (Willemen Infra v Jura)

On 24 February 2023, the Dutch Supreme court has ruled in the case Willemen Infra v Jura, ECLI:NL:HR:2023:313. The ruling clarifies the scope of the Dutch courts’ duty to apply the CISG (UN Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods, 1980) ex officio on appeal. The Dutch appellate courts shall not review of their own motion whether the first instance court had to apply the CISG to the dispute, if the question of governing law was not the subject of parties’ objections on appeal and thus got “beyond the parties’ dispute”.


The facts of this case related to a sale of gutters by a Dutch seller to a Belgian buyer. The gutters were to be used for the renovation of a runway at Zaventem airport. According to the seller’s general terms and conditions, the disputes were to be resolved before a Dutch court on the basis of Dutch law.

After the start of performance, the buyer had reasons to assume that that the seller was unable to timely supply the products of the required quality. The buyer refused to take all the purchased gutters.


The seller disagreed and claimed damages for the loss of profit caused by the breach of contract. In the proceedings, the buyer submitted a counterclaim, invoking partial avoidance of contract and, alternatively, nullity of contract due to vitiation of consent. The buyer submitted namely that it had concluded the contract based on misrepresentation relating to the products’ quality (the certificates which the products should have) and the delivery time.

The seller relied on both the CISG and Dutch law in its written submissions, including the statement that the choice for Dutch law in the general terms and conditions should be interpreted as excluding the application of the CISG. During the oral hearing, both parties referred to Dutch law only (see on this the Conclusion of the Advocate General, at [3.4]). The first instance court ruled as follows in relation to applicable law: ‘According to the [seller], the contract is governed by Dutch law. (…) ‘The court contends that [the buyer] also relies on Dutch law in its arguments, and thus follows [the seller’s] reasoning. The court follows the parties in this and shall apply Dutch law.” (the formulation is quoted in Willemen Infra v Jura at [4.3.1], compare to Advisory Council’s Opinion nr 16). The court has then applied the Dutch civil code, not the CISG, to the dispute.

The seller appealed against the decision, but not against the applicable law. Nevertheless, the appellate court considered of its own motion, whether the contract was governed by the CISG. It ruled that the contract fell under the CISG’s scope; the Convention was directly applicable on the basis of article 1(1)(a) CISG, as both Belgium and the Netherlands are Contracting States to CISG. Furthermore, the parties to the dispute have not explicitly excluded the CISG’s application based on article 6. The appellate court has applied the CISG to the contractual claim, and Dutch law – to the claim relating to the vitiation of consent, as this matter falls outside the Convention’s scope. The buyer has labelled the application of the CISG ‘surprising’, because no claim in appeal targeted applicable law.

In cassation, the Dutch Supreme has ruled that applicable law was indeed “beyond the parties’ dispute” on appeal. Therefore, the appellate court was neither free to determine applicable law anew nor free to apply CISG of its own motion (Willemen Infra v Jura at [2.1.2]- [3.1.6]).

CISG and procedural ordre public?

The ruling is logical from the point of view of civil procedure. Appellate review follows up on – and is limited by – the points invoked on appeal. Issues “beyond the parties’ dispute” are not reviewed, unless these issues fall under the rules of procedural ordre public, which the appellate courts must apply of their own motion. While there is no unanimously accepted definition of the Dutch procedural ordre public, the cassation claim explicitly suggested that ‘the CISG is not of ordre public’ (see Conclusion of the Advocate General, at [3.3.]). Whereas this element of the cassation claim has been satisfied, neither the Advocate General nor the Court have engaged with the discussion whether procedural ordre public covers direct application (or applicability) of the Convention’s uniform substantive sales law, even if it would be confined to establishing whether the parties have opted-out the CISG based on its article 6.