| ||1. Distinction between the duty to achieve a specific result and the duty of best efforts
The degree of diligence required of a party in the performance of an obligation varies considerably depending upon the nature of the obligation incurred. Sometimes a party is bound only by a duty of best efforts. That party must then exert the efforts that a reasonable person of the same kind would exert in the same circumstances, but does not guarantee the achievement of a specific result. In other cases, however, the obligation is more onerous and such a specific result is promised.
The distinction between a “duty to achieve a specific result” and a “duty of best efforts” corresponds to two frequent and typical degrees of severity in the assumption of a contractual obligation, although it does not encompass all possible situations.
Obligations of both types may coexist in the same contract. For instance, a firm that repairs a defective machine may be considered to be under a duty of best efforts concerning the quality of the repair work in general, and under a duty to achieve a specific result as regards the replacement of certain spare parts.
2. Distinction provides criteria for determining whether a party has performed its obligations
Taken together, the two paragraphs of this Article provide judges and arbitrators with criteria by which correct performance can be evaluated. In the case of an obligation to achieve a specific result, a party is bound simply to achieve the promised result, failure to achieve which amounts in itself to non-performance, subject to the application of the force majeure provision (see Article 7.1.7). On the other hand, the assessment of non-performance of an obligation of best efforts calls for a less severe judgment, based on a comparison with the efforts a reasonable person of the same kind would have made in similar circumstances. This distinction signifies that more will be expected from a highly specialised firm selected for its expertise than from a less sophisticated partner.
1. A, a distributor, promises that it will reach a quota of 15,000 sales within a year in the contract zone. If at the end of the period A has sold only 13,000 items, it has clearly failed to perform its obligation (see Article 5.1.4(1)).
2. B, another distributor, promises “to use our best efforts to expand the sales of the product” in the contract zone, without any stipulation that it must reach a minimum quantity. This provision creates an obligation of best efforts; it obliges B to take all the steps that a reasonable person, placed in similar circumstances (nature of the product, characteristics of the market, importance and experience of the firm, presence of competitors, etc.) would take to promote the sales (advertising, visits to customers, proper service, etc.). B does not promise the specific result of selling a certain number of items per year, but does undertake to do all that can be expected of it when acting as a reasonable person (see Article 5.1.4(2)).
3. Long-term contracts
In international contract practice, especially in the context of long-term contracts, when provision is made for parties to work together to resolve issues that may arise, it is common to speak of a duty “to use best efforts” to resolve such issues rather than a duty “to negotiate in good faith.” When the parties to a long-term contract have agreed on such a duty to use best efforts, that duty may amount, for all practical purposes, to a duty to negotiate in good faith (see Article 2.1.15, Comment 3).