I've heard that there is a doctrine in contract enforcement.

The doctrine is that the written contract is a "proof" of a contract rather than the actual contract.

One such question that touch this issue is When a contract is being analyzed in court, is it the understanding of the parties or the written contract that is to be established?

What about contract that contains hidden or obfuscated terms?

For example, in Sim Lim case, one of the seller obviously hide insurance term.

The term is very unfair. By signing the contract, the buyer is presumed to agree to pay another $1500 insurance for a $950 worth of good.



Here, the written contract says that the customer agrees to pay $1500. However, we also know but the customers would never have agreed to pay if he knows there is a $1500 fee.

In case of Sim Lim scam, the seller is put to jail.

What about in other jurisdiction?

In particular, what about in Indonesia?

Basically how court deals with grossly obfuscated written terms when there are evidence that the drafters of the contract try to obfuscate the terms?

To simplify:

The very bad term is technically written. For example, say there is a fee for an insurance that cost $5000. The normal fee for such insurance worth only $50.

No customers would agree to pay $5k for something worth $50. So instead of writing $5k fee, the insurance would write that certain percentage some terms are invented. Then the terms are written a bit differently on other pages.

So a customer that want to know there is a $5k fee will have to combine info from a few different pages with slightly different terms. Otherwise, the way it's written, it's kind of expected that most customers would fail to see the fee.

And that's what the insurance company wants.

Of course there is a term that says that you understand the whole contract bla bla that users tend to sign.

A judge can see the contract and see that the very unreasonable fee is technically written. However, a judge can also see that it's grossly obfuscated.



You may need to translate the letter. However, from the letter and simulation, it's pretty clear that the life insurance coverage is $20k (worth about $40 a year), and the letter complicatedly explain that there is a $4000k fee in first year and about $9k fee in first 5 years.



Contracts can be oral or written or partially oral and partially written.

Where a contract is reduced to writing (i.e. the parties intend that the contract is only written) then the terms of the contract are those and only those that are written down (barring implied terms). Where a contract contains an oral component then those oral terms are part of the contract as well.


Based on a (very brief) reading of the linked articles it seems that this was a case of criminal fraud and coercion. An agreement obtained by fraud or coercion is not a contract.

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  • In Indonesia, a lawyer told me that if it's written, even if it's very obfuscated, it's binding and that's the contract. Does Indonesia have this principle that the contract is what people agree and not what's written – aegos charyo Mar 8 '19 at 12:40

USA Law:

I think what you are looking for is called the Parol Evidence Rule.

The parol evidence rule governs the extent to which parties to a case may introduce into court evidence of a prior or contemporaneous agreement in order to modify, explain, or supplement the contract at issue. The rule excludes the admission of parol evidence. This means that when the parties to a contract have made and signed a completely integrated written contract, evidence of antecedent negotiations (called "parol evidence") will not be admissible for the purpose of varying or contradicting what is written into the contract.

Cornell Law Definition.

There are further limitations in the USA that require that the text not be obfuscated.

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  • So if it can be shown that one party act in bad faith and deliberately obfuscate a contract, the court can side with the other party? – aegos charyo Mar 17 '19 at 13:34

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