Case 6 - Marriage Brokerage Contracts
Published online by Cambridge University Press: 11 February 2021
Mr Lonely entered into a contract with Forever Happy Marriage Bureau whereby the agency promised to use its best efforts to find him a suitable wife. He paid an initial deposit of €7,000 for this service, with the remaining amount of €2,000 to be paid once he was married to someone introduced by the agency. After several unsuccessful introductions, he asked Forever Happy to return his deposit. According to the terms of the brokerage contract, the deposit is non-refundable. Is this contract valid? Can Mr Lonely still recover his deposit?
Variation: Mr Settled entered into a contract with Forever Happy Marriage Bureau whereby the agency promised to use its best efforts to find him a suitable wife. He paid an initial deposit of €2,000 for this service, with the remaining amount of €7,000 to be paid once he was married to someone introduced by the agency. He met Miss Lonely through the service, who had concluded a similar contract with Forever Happy. The couple decided to get married and agreed that they would not inform the agency about this. Forever Happy is now suing for the remaining amount. Are the respective contracts of Mr and Mrs Settled with the agency valid? Can Mr and Mrs Settled challenge the claim brought forth by the agency?
Case Reference: Hermann v. Charlesworth  2 KB 1 23.
The contract is valid. Most likely, Mr Lonely cannot recover even a minimal proportion of the deposit.
Variation: It is likely that the contracts are valid, and that Mr and Mrs Settled cannot challenge the claim for the remaining price.
The validity of marriage brokerage contracts and comparable agreements is primarily determined by a specific provision in Art. 879(2)(1) CC, which states that “if a price is agreed for negotiating a marriage agreement”, that contract is void. At least since the 1970s, the Supreme Court has promoted a narrow interpretation of this rule. Today, it is generally accepted that contracts by which the brokerage agency only undertakes to provide the client with addresses of, and other personal information about, potential partners, and the client in turn agrees to pay a price for this service, do not fall within that provision and can be validly concluded.
- Immoral Contracts in Europe , pp. 341 - 390Publisher: IntersentiaPrint publication year: 2020