Suppose a self storage company has a terms of service contract that goes to great lengths with its legalese to nullify any possibility of being held liable for anything, in other words reserve all rights but disclaim all liabilities toward the customer. This includes a convoluted digital security system on the lift requiring a code that is supposed to stop working at certain hours to restrict access but often malfunctions at other hours and the contract explicitly disclaims liability for the lifts malfunctioning.

But when one books a space online it is promoted when selecting a space that either it is on a ground floor or the customer is assured that there is lift access. Some of these spaces are big enough to only make sense for storing large furniture and thus couldn't be useful without functioning lift access.

When the lifts break down as they frequently do, it invariably wastes hours upon hours of numerous customers' time.

is it possible/valid for a company to disclaim liability for not providing a service properly which they've contracted for consideration to do?

Corollary: sometimes things happen that are beyond the customer's control and they are slightly late vacating the premises at the agreed time. On these occasions they may be locked inside possibly creating a fire hazard, but that's another issue, but in any case, the duty manager or contracted overnight security company is supposed to come and resolve the situation.

Recently after calling the out of hours assistance number someone had to wait 2 hours for the security to arrive as their keyring was on the first floor, with their storage, bike, and house key so they could'nt get home. When finally the security arrived he tried 5-6 different security pass codes but due to mismanagement by the storage company none of them had worked and the customer was left homeless that night unable to retrieve their house keys to get into their home. The security man tried to consult the duty manager liaising from the storage company itself but they also could'nt produce a code that actually functioned to give access to the premises. The customer's sleep and life were massively disrupted by this incompetent out of hours response.

No doubt the company's lawyers have painstakingly crafted their corporate service contract to eliminate any conceivable liabilities and give the corporation all the power possible in every conceivable circumstance.

But are there immutable limits to the ability of corporate legal gymnastics' ability to dissolve liability while taking people's money for a service?

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    Still looking for an answer for united-states Aug 8, 2022 at 13:09
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    If people are being trapped inside I think the local fire marshal would be very interested. It might not generate any compensation for the people affected, but I don't think the building owner would enjoy the experience. Aug 8, 2022 at 18:52
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    Sounds like someone isn't very good at managing their time and their life, and someone also has a serious case of vanity and is trying to blame others.... but really needs a stout dose of personal responsibility. Where that is relevant to legal action is that if opposing counsel can make a good showing of that, they stand a good chance of getting the action called frivolous and/or winning sanctions and costs. Judges and juries loooove giving smackdowns to petulant people who deserve it, it is one of the great pleasures of the job. So someone could end up paying for both sides' lawyers. Aug 9, 2022 at 0:23

4 Answers 4


"A term in a consumer contract is unfair if, contrary to the requirement of good faith, it causes a significant imbalance in the parties' rights and obligations under the contract, to the detriment of the consumer." s62 Consumer Rights Act 2015

Some suppliers put terms in contracts that seek to limit or exclude liability. Some of these are fair and others are unfair, depending. Unfair terms are automatically 'void' and therefore of no legal effect.

The Competition & Markets Authority produced some guidance titled Unfair contract terms explained, which may be of interest.

A term that undermines the value of the supplier's obligations by hindering or preventing the consumer from seeking a legal remedy "falls under suspicion of unfairness".

A term that has the effect of giving impunity to the supplier to act unreasonably or negligently to the consumer is very likely to be considered unfair.

A term may simply not be allowed under legislation and therefore it won't be legally valid (see for example s62(8)). But the consumer may not be aware of this legal fact so the term could be misleading - in which case it is actionable as an unfair commercial practice.

Schedule 2 Consumer Rights Act 2015 lists consumer contract terms which may be regarded as unfair.

  • Wow, so it seems then as though the answer to this question before 2015, or certainly, before 1977, would have been radically different? Aug 8, 2022 at 13:08
  • @JosephP. I don't think so, that concept of unfair terms has existed for years, certainly before 2015
    – Lag
    Aug 8, 2022 at 13:33
  • Did it precede the unfair contract terms act 1977? Aug 8, 2022 at 14:01
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    @JosephP. I don't know, the consultation paper linked to in lawcom.gov.uk/project/unfair-terms-in-contracts may be of interest
    – Lag
    Aug 8, 2022 at 14:19

In the US, contracts are definitely limited. One of the primary ways is that illegal contracts/terms cannot be enforced. The details of what elements of a contract are not considered valid will depend both on federal statutes as well as state and even possibly local statutes. An example of this is how the terms of credit card contracts are subject to federal regulation. A common thing in contracts now is an agreement to use arbitration. Typically that will be upheld.

The key question in the scenario you describe is what remedy is being sought. Since access has been restored, I think you would need to show some other harm such as loss of income or cost of alternate accommodations and then make a case that these were caused by the defendant.

  • I would say more just the general disruption to the customer's life, leisure time, rest and sleep. Not accomplishing anything for the entire subsequent day and feeling miserable throughout due to 4hrs sleep the night before due to waiting 2.5 hours in vain for the out of hours security patrol to show up is loss. Must one's loss be financial to be worthy of compensation and remedy? Aug 8, 2022 at 18:49
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    Well, they court can't award you with leisure time, rest or sleep. If there was a loss of income or something of that sort, maybe. I guess you could argue pain and suffering but it doesn't seem likely you'll get awarded much (if anything) for such minor complaints. IANAL but I think a lot of states don't even recognize pain and suffering. Also, you probably agreed to arbitration anyway. You might just want to try complaining to the company and see if you can get a credit or something.
    – JimmyJames
    Aug 8, 2022 at 19:19
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    I suspect strongly that U.S. law affords greater freedom to limit liability than U.K. law.
    – ohwilleke
    Aug 8, 2022 at 19:49

Consumer Guarantees

Consumer Guarantees cannot be excluded under the Australian Consumer Law in Consumer Contracts.

A Consumer Contract is anything sold or leased for less than $100,000, of any value if normally used in a household setting, or a motor vehicle or trailer.

The Consumer Guarantees for services are that it must be:

  • provided with acceptable care and skill or technical knowledge and taking all necessary steps to avoid loss and damage

  • be fit for the purpose or give the results that you and the business had agreed to

  • be delivered within a reasonable time when there is no agreed end date.

You can claim a remedy from the supplier if the services do not meet any of the consumer guarantees in relation to services. Remedies include cancelling a service and in some cases compensation for damages and loss.


One of the main limitations on contractual limitations of liability, present in almost every U.S. states, is a prohibition on limiting liability arising from intentional acts, reckless conduct, or gross negligence.

Another limitation is that parties to a contract generally cannot limit their liability to people who are not parties to the contact, except to the extent that statutory legislation permits them to do so. This is why, for example, laws relating to the limited liability of entities, or to the right to mortgage property to the detriment to third-party unsecured creditors, needs to be supported by legislation.

A limitation on liability is something that can be and sometimes is restricted by statute or regulations. For example, attorneys are limited by their Rules of Professional Conduct 1.8 (all U.S. jurisdictions have a common numbering system for their rules of professional conduct for lawyers) from limiting their liability for malpractice in most circumstances. Select statutes restrict limitations of liability in other particular, usually narrow, circumstances. Often this is found in limitations on limitations of liability in state or federal consumer protection statutes.

For example, in a sale of goods, under the Uniform Commercial Code, certain warranties regarding title and the condition of the goods are implied in law unless the appropriate prominent waivers of these warranties are contained.

More broadly, a court can invalidate any contractual provision if it is, the context of the negotiations between the parties, unconscionable as a matter of common law contract law.

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