The doctrine of offer and acceptance forms the basis of the rules of contract formation in most western legal systems. However, if parties enter into elaborate negotiations, these rules may become difficult to apply. This paper addresses the application of the doctrine of offer and acceptance to the formation of contract in the context of negotiations. The paper argues that while the doctrine of offer and acceptance is designed to assess the issues related to the substance of the future eventual contract (the substantive constituent of negotiations), these issues overlap within the context of negotiations with the strategic and tactical behaviour of the negotiators (dynamic constituent of negotiations). Analysis of these two constituents can be found in negotiation studies, a field which has developed over the last decades. Using the rules of offer and acceptance of the UNIDROIT Principles of International Commercial Contracts as an example, this paper shows that the demarcation between the substantive and the dynamic constituents of negotiations can be used as the criterion to distinguish between, on the one hand, the documents and conduct forming a contract, and, on the other hand, other precontractual documents and conduct. Furthermore, the paper discusses the possibility of using the structure of negotiation described by negotiation studies as an additional tool in the usual analysis of facts in order to assess the existence of a contract and the moment of contract formation.
Pannebakker, Ekaterina, Offer and Acceptance and the Dynamics of Negotiations: Arguments for Contract Theory from Negotiation Studies (November 22, 2013). Erasmus Law Review, Vol. 6, No. 2, 2013.