Since the country’s first force majeure certificate of novel coronavirus pneumonia was provided on February 2, CCPIT Commercial Certification Center has made a deployment, and local trade promotion agencies also made generous response. They have issued force majeure certificates to shield companies from legal damages arising from the epidemic outbreak, which has attracted wide attention from all walks of life at home and abroad.
Recently, whether the epidemic constitutes a force majeure slips in contract, and whether the enterprises can be exempted from contractual liability have become hot topics in all walks of life.
Commission of Legislative Affairs of the National People’s Congress (NPC) Standing Committee Spokesperson Zang Tiewei met the press and expressed, “at present, China is fighting against the novel coronavirus pneumonia. To protect public health, the government has adopted corresponding epidemic prevention and control measures. For the parties who are unable to perform the contract, the epidemic is unforeseeable, unavoidable and insurmountable force majeure. According to the Contract Law, if the contract cannot be performed due to force majeure, the responsibility shall be exempted from liability in part or in whole in light of the impact of the event of force majeure, except otherwise provided by law.”
It can be seen that CCPIT and local trade promotion agencies have legal support to accept and issue force majeure certificate. But at the same time, the factual proof of force majeure is the proof of objective facts, not the "trump card" of the enterprise contract exemption.
The certificate issued by CCPIT exonerates companies from not performing or partially performing contractual duties by proving they are suffering from circumstances beyond their control, which can prove that there were objective facts such as delayed resumption of work, traffic control, and restricted dispatch of labor personnel.
According to this, the enterprise can claim to another party of the contract for delay in performance or termination of the contract. But whether the contract can be exempted in whole or in part requires them to offer prove. According to the applicable law, the specific agreement of the contract and the specific objective situation, they can decide whether there is a causal relationship between the "epidemic and its prevention and control measures" and "the enterprise cannot perform the contract".
If a dispute arises between the parties, it can usually be settled through mediation, litigation or arbitration. Therefore, even if another party of the contract refuses the force majeure certificate, it is not the final conclusion. The coronavirus-hit enterprises can still maintain their rights and interests in accordance with the law through continuous negotiation, mediation, litigation or arbitration.
With the recovery of enterprises all over the country, the impact of the epidemic on the production and operation of enterprises and the performance of contracts will be differentiated and complex.
To carry out work in a more professional and compliant manner, to provide more timely, accurate and targeted services for enterprises, and to protect the legitimate rights and interests of enterprises, CCPIT Commercial Certification Center integrates the forces of the national trade promotion system and all sectors of society, and establishes a team of legal experts to study and standardize testimonies and the audit points, reviews the certification process, and guide the enterprise to use the force majeure. It also provides legal opinions on the force majeure involving major events to ensure the legality and compliance of each certificate to help enterprises reduce losses.
CCPIT Commercial Certification Center will accept the supervision and suggestions from all walks of life and perform the responsibilities of CCPIT, contributing to the fight against epidemic.
Starting from February 6, enterprises from all over the country can log in to the CCPIT online certification platform, http://www.rzccpit.com/, and apply for the force majeure certificates of the novel coronavirus pneumonia. To learn more, please subscribe the WeChat public official account of “CCPIT Commercial Certification(中国贸促商事认证)”.