Quark’s guide to English contract law: Helping you maximise profit

Editor’s preface

As a contracts lawyer of 15 years, I was delighted to assist Mr Quark (son of Keldar and proprietor of Quark’s Bar, Grill, Gaming House and Holosuite Arcade on Deep Space Nine) with his preparation of an English contract law guide for his fellow Ferengi.  The differences between the two legal systems are stark: for the Ferengi, Greed[, rather than cake,] is eternal (Rule of Acquisition “ROA” #10), and it has taken Quark some time to get his head around some of English law’s somewhat alien contracting principles. 

This guide has been prepared using the Rules of Acquisition (the 285 guiding principles that form the basis of conducting Ferengi business) to assist our Ferengi readers, and supplemented with references to events taking place on Deep Space Nine (thank you Memory-Alpha for the text and pictures), with the main elements of English law providing the framework for the analysis of how Ferengi contract law principles differ from those applied by “hew-mons” who live in the Federation provinces of England & Wales.

Please note that the focus of this guide is on contract law, rather than other types of law that Quark experienced when on Deep Space Nine, such as family and divorce law, employment law and criminal law, but copies of these other guides are available at Quark’s (at additional cost, of course).” – E.England

Hew-mon English law principles

The first thing you need to know about how hew-mons conduct their business in England & Wales is that it can be very different to how we Ferengi are used to doing things.  It is, in my view, a significantly inferior system.  They don’t even have a set of written rules, and everything is regulated by what they refer to as “common law principles”.  Such primitive beings!

To help you navigate this rather puerile regime, and to help you have any hope of making a profit with these people, I have summarised the key deviations from our sacred Rules of Acquisition, and suggest you make it your business to familiarise yourself with this guide (price: 20 slips of gold-pressed latinum, if you please).

Who can enter into contracts

The good news is that the customer pool in England & Wales is very large, offering plenty of opportunities to exploit and increase your latinum potential.  Hew-mons permit all adults and corporate entities to enter into legally binding contracts, with minors being able to contract for essential purchases.

Clearly Ishka’s influence has reached Earth, as even women are treated like equals when it comes to contracting.  I know, you wonder how their society functions, when you and I know very well that females and finances don’t mix! (ROA #94) (Profit & Lace DS9 623.  Even though women can enter contracts, these hew-mons agree with us that you can’t make a deal if you’re dead (ROA #125) (The Siege of AR-558 DS9 708), but, death will not automatically terminate a legally binding contract, unless the party’s death itself makes performance impossible.

As with all of your business dealings, you would be wise to take heed of the fact that new customers (even your hew-mon ones) are like razor-toothed gree-worms.  They can be succulent, but sometimes they bite back (ROA #195/203) (Little Green Men DS9 408). Due diligence on your counterparts is king!  Not all customers are as reliable as my good friend, Morn.

How hew-mons enter into contracts

On Ferenginar, a handshake isn’t worth yamok sauce (Star Trek Deep Space Nine: Legends of the Ferengi: By Quark as told to Ira Steven Behr & Robert Hewitt Wolfe), but hew-mon contracts don’t need to be in writing or even signed at all to be legally binding.  This is great news, and means that you can try and find ways to trick your customers to agree to your terms.

This would have been very helpful for me that time I lost out on a consignment of self-sealing stem-bolts because I was distracted by the buyer (you all know that I just can’t help myself when oo-mox is involved) and I didn’t get the contract signed in time (Prophet Motive DS9 316).

For a contract to be legally binding, it need only satisfy the following conditions:

  1. There must be an offer on the table
  2. The other party must accept that offer as offered without any counter-offers or changes
  3. Both parties must intend to be legally bound
  4. There must be consideration. I’ll explain, this last one:

These hew-mon contracts do not need to involve actual currency or latinum or even worthless gold for that matter, they just require that something is exchanged or promised in return.  As I’ve always said, one man’s pricelessness, is another man’s worthlessness (Move Along Home DS9 110).   Having said that, the way I see it is that you should expect resistance if you try to apply the 82nd Rule of Acquisition when pricing your products (the flimsier the product the higher the price).

I recall my nephew Nog and the Captain’s son, Jake Sisko, exchanging self-sealing stem bolts for 7 tessipates of Bajoran land some time ago when they set up the Noh-Jay Consortium, and this type of arrangement would also be permitted under English law (Progress DS9 115). The good news is that very similar to the Ferengi way, the law doesn’t protect your customer against making a bad bargain with you.  Well that, I must say, is very progressive for these hew-mons.  Maybe they are more similar to us than they’d like to admit!  

Performing your obligations

If you contract with these hew-mons, you will be required to honour any contracts you enter into with them.  The 6th Rule of Acquisition that: a deal is a deal…until a better one comes along, will not apply, and both parties to a contract will be bound to perform the contract as negotiated.  And may I also remind you that you will not be able to get out of any unfavourable contracts you have agreed to just because you have contracted with a hew-mon.  If English law applies, my advice is to make sure you’re happy with it before it’s concluded (ROA #17: “A contract is a contract is a contract but only between Ferengi”).

The Rule of Acquisition #8 is also very important for English law business contracts.  Once the contract is legally binding, it doesn’t matter if the parties have read the contract or not, and they will be deemed to have accepted all of its terms.  As any good Ferengi knows, it is always important to check the small print before you sign! You don’t want to find that you have sold your soul to the Prophets, or worse, to the Federation!

Although satisfaction is not guaranteed (ROA #19), even in English law contracts, the average Ferengi might well find himself in an unpleasant situation because of what the hew-mons call “implied terms”. These insidious rules mean that, unless you have successfully disapplied them, the products you sell must comply with the descriptions or purposes you have given, and that any services rendered must be provided with reasonable care and skill. A prudent Ferengi will, of course, always exclude liability for what he sells, but extra cunning will be needed to avoid falling foul of these meddlesome rules.

And finally, I want to impart some further words of warning. I just couldn’t believe it when I discovered that, for hew-mons, the purpose of a contract is not to pursue profit at all costs, and the principles of “caveat emptor” apply only to a degree. Whilst in Ferenginar, you will be used to not being afraid to mislabel a product (ROA #239), this is a big no-no for English law (Body Parts DS9 425). Blasphemy, I say, and talk about a sure way to end up in the Vault of Eternal Destitution!

What happens if things go wrong

Both in Ferengi and hew-mon English law, a breach of contract is a serious matter.  Both our cultures provide recourse in these circumstances, and legal proceedings can be brought against the defaulting party. 

Remember that you will be contractually obliged to perform your obligations, and if that’s what’s written, then that’s what’s written (Favour the Bold DS9 605).  As is the case in Ferenginar, there are very few instances where you can be excused from performing your obligations, but it might involve a legal mistake (like that time I argued with Hanok that the extra charges added to the contract were a mistake (Starship Down DS9 406)), or because the contract is frustrated. 

Do you remember that time when I agreed to sell my remains to Liquidator Brunt via the Ferengi Future Exchange, but then I didn’t die? It could have ended in disaster, but I managed to get around that little problem by using my superior wit and cunning (Melora DS9 206). This might not have been possible if I’d entered into a similar arrangement with a hew-mon.

Contracts for hew-mons will often include specified contractual remedies for breach of contracts, and you can’t just rely on the 1st rule of acquisition that once you have their money, never give it back (The Nagus DS9 110 / Heart of Stone DS9 314). And let me tell you, the refund policies when your customers are individual consumers are intolerable, worthy of its own guide (copies available to purchase separately at Quark’s Bar)!

Helpfully, hew-mons don’t have a formal regulatory authority like the FCA (Ferengi Commerce Authority) for general contracts, and the revocation of a hew-mon’s right to conduct future business is reserved only for very serious breaches of specifically applicable conduct rules.  

It is also worth knowing that hew-mon contracts will only bind the parties to the contract, and hew-mons do not ostracise their family members if something goes wrong with their contracts.  With all the trouble I’ve had with Ishka, this is one of the few appealing aspects of English law, I must say! (Body Parts DS9 425). I can only dream of what life would be without the likes of Liquidator Brunt!

Home is where the heart is, but the stars are made of latinum

As this guide highlights, English law is far too provisional for my taste, and it reminds me of the more liberal ways being promoted by my mother since the amendments made to the Ferengi Bill of Opportunities (Ferengi Love Songs DS9 520).  But nonetheless, there are opportunities to profit from these hew-mons, and may the Great Continuum provide for you and reward your exploitations! Maybe one day you’ll be able to buy your own moon.

Just don’t forget to grab a drink (or three), and maybe visit the holosuite or Dabo table before you leave…

Index

Rules of Acquisitions

(Star Trek Deep Space Nine: Legends of the Ferengi: By Quark as told to Ira Steven Behr & Robert Hewitt Wolfe)

#1: Once you have their money, never give it back

#8: Small print leads to large risk

#16: A deal is a deal…until a better one comes along

#17: A contract is a contract is a contract…but only between Ferengi

#19: Satisfaction is not guaranteed

#82: The flimsier the product, the higher the price

#94: Females and finances don’t mix

#125: You can’t make a deal if you’re dead

#195/203: New customers are like razor-toothed gree-worms.  They can be succulent, but sometimes they bite back

#239: Never be afraid to mislabel a product

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