Companies often don’t have the bargaining power to get their way in contract negotiations. When that’s the case, they have to think of other ways to help protect their business interests. Imagine, for example, that a customer is negotiating a master purchasing contract with a vendor.
- The customer would love to flatly prohibit the vendor from raising prices without the customer’s consent. But the vendor’s negotiators won’t go along with such a prohibition.
- The vendor would love to have the unfettered discretion to raise the customer’s prices whenever it wants. But the customer’s negotiators insist on at least some protection on that score.
What to do? In no particular order, here are three possible approaches that the parties could consider trying.
A non-discrimination requirement at least brings a bit of overall-market discipline into the picture.
EXAMPLE: Vendor will not increase the prices it charges to Customer except as part of a non-targeted, across-the-board pricing increase by Vendor, applicable to its customers generally, for the relevant goods or services.
COMMENT: Vendor might want to qualify this language, so as to limit how general a price increase must be before it can be applied to Customer.
An advance-warning requirement can buy time for its beneficiary to look around for alternatives (assuming of course that the contract doesn’t lock in the beneficiary somehow, for example with a minimum-purchase requirement or a “requirements” provision).
EXAMPLE: Vendor will give Customer at least X [days | months] advance notice of any increase in the pricing it charges to Customer under this Agreement.
Requiring a party to provide information justifying its action, upon request, can force that party to think twice about doing something, even though it technically has the right to do it.
EXAMPLE [UPDATED]: If requested by Customer within X days after notice of a pricing increase, Vendor will seasonably provide Customer with
documentation showing, with reasonable completeness and accuracy, a written explanation of the reason for the increase, including reasonable details about Vendor’s relevant cost structures. relevant to the pricing increase. Customer will maintain all such documentation in confidence any nonpublic information in such explanation, will not disclose the nonpublic information to third parties, and will use it only for purposes of making decisions about potential purchases under this Agreement.
COMMENT: Note the if-requested language, which relieves Vendor from the burden of continually managing this requirement — although a smart vendor would plan ahead and have the required documentation ready to go.
The above examples are specific to price increases, but the concepts can be adapted to a variety of needs.