In all construction contracts, one of the central principles is the Employer’s obligation to pay the contract price. The Contractor will be wary about the Employer’s financial standing and ability to pay and concerned to ensure that payments are made on time and that effective remedies are available in case of late or non-payment. The FIDIC standard forms of contract contain provisions dealing with these aspects.
Although Clause 17 is titled ‘Risk and Responsibility’ it also sets out other provisions relating to indemnities, limitation of liability and, unusually, the specific topic of intellectual and industrial property rights. The clause provides that the Contractor assumes responsibility and bears the risk for the care of the works during execution and for remedying any defects during the Defects Notification Period. Risk transfers to the Employer on issue of the Taking–Over Certificate to the extent of works defined as being completed. Generally, in construction contracts ‘risk’ is understood to mean an event or circumstance which causes delay, loss or damage to the Works. A risk can be said to be Employer caused, Contractor caused or neutral. The purpose of risk allocation is to determine which party bears the risk for such events. The Contractor may be required to remediate the damage at his own cost or the Employer may be required to pay for the damaged works. It has been stated that the “FIDIC standard forms are generally recognised as being well balanced because both parties bear parts of the risks arising from the project.”
Clause 8 contains all the fundamental provisions relating to the start of the Works, the Time for Completion, delays and the entitlement of the Contractor to an extension of time and of the Employer to delay damages, and finally the circumstances in which a suspension of the Works can occur and the implications for the Parties.
The main changes in Clause 16 are the new grounds for suspension and termination: Non-compliance with a final and binding Engineer’s Determination and binding or final and binding DAAB decision, to the extent that such failure constitutes a “material breach” of the Employer’s obligations under the Contract. (Sub-Clauses 16.1(d) and 16.2.1(d)). What constitutes a “material breach” is likely to be the subject of many disputes (see the commentary on Clause 15). Non-receipt of a Notice of the Commencement Date under Sub-Clause 8.1 [Commencement of Works] within 84 days after receiving the Letter of Acceptance. (Sub-Clauses 16.2.1(f)). This is development to ground (h) in the FIDIC Pink (MDB) Book which states: “the Contractor does not receive the Engineer’s instructions recording the agreement of both Parties on the fulfilment of the conditions for the Commencement of the Works under Sub-Clause 8.1 [Commencement of Works]”. It protects the Contractor from the financial consequences of fluctuations in the rates and prices during an extended delay to the start of the Works, although the Contractor ould be entitled to damages for breach of contract in any event. More importantly, it gives the Contractor loss of profit on the entire project. Engagement in corrupt, fraudulent, collusive or coercive practice at any time in relation to the Works or to the Contract. (Sub-Clauses 16.2.1(j).) This introduces parity between the Employer and Contractor. The wording is identical to that under Sub-Clause 15.2.1(h). In the FIDIC 1999 editions, the Employer was entitled to terminate if the Contractor gave or offered an inducement or reward etc. but there was no recipricol arrangement.
The substance of this provision was already in Sub-Clause 17.6 in the 1999 edition and has now been separated from other provisions dealing with Risk and Responsibility. As before it generally exempts parties from liability to the other for “loss of use of any Works, loss of profit, loss of any contract or any indirect or consequential loss” except in respect of a list of identified Sub-Clauses. The list has been extended and several of the changes are very significant. It also limits liability to certain levels in some circumstances. Finally, it excludes parties from cover by the exemption and limits in certain circumstances. All three elements have changed.
Clause 19 deals with two distinct events: (1) Force Majeure; and (2) release from performance under the law. Force Majeure is often narrowly defined under the laws of many countries; however, within the FIDIC 1999 forms of contract it has a much broader meaning. The terminology used by FIDIC has therefore sometimes been criticized as being misleading.
Click through to read Corbett & Co.'s helpful commentary on FIDIC 1999 book Clause 15
Clause 4 sets out various obligations which fall on the Contractor under the Contract and which cannot easily be classified elsewhere. The obligations under Clause 4 are of a wide range covering 24 different topics. Sub-Clause 4.1 sets out the Contractor’s general obligation to carry out his duties in accordance with the contract. Clause 4 of the FIDIC Red Book 1999 amalgamates various Contractor obligations under one provision. However this Clause 4 is not exclusive as there are also other Contractor obligations scattered throughout the Contract. Other significant general obligations which could equally have been included in Clause 4 (and which should be read in conjunction with this Clause 4) are as follows: • Sub-Clause 1.3 [Communications] • Sub-Clause 1.7 [Assignment] • Sub-Clause 1.8 [Care and Supply of Documents] • Sub-Clause 1.9 [Delayed Drawings or Instructions] • Sub-Clause 1.10 [Employer’s Use of Contractor’s Documents] • Sub-Clause 1.12 [Confidential Details] • Sub-Clause 1.13 [Compliance with Laws] • Clause 6 [Staff and Labour] • Clause 7 [Plant, Materials and Workmanship] • Sub-Clause 8.2 [Time for Completion] • Sub-Clause 8.3 [Programme]
Rumour reaches us that the Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) behind the Pink Book, FIDIC’s harmonised version of the 1999 Red Book, will discontinue the experiment. Should we be sorry to see the back of the Pink Book? We think not.