Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Financial, Wikipedia.
Related to unconscionable: Unconscionable contract


Unusually harsh and shocking to the conscience; that which is so grossly unfair that a court will proscribe it.

When a court uses the word unconscionable to describe conduct, it means that the conduct does not conform to the dictates of conscience. In addition, when something is judged unconscionable, a court will refuse to allow the perpetrator of the conduct to benefit.

In contract law an unconscionable contract is one that is unjust or extremely one-sided in favor of the person who has the superior bargaining power. An unconscionable contract is one that no person who is mentally competent would enter into and that no fair and honest person would accept. Courts find that unconscionable contracts usually result from the exploitation of consumers who are often poorly educated, impoverished, and unable to find the best price available in the competitive marketplace.

Contractual provisions that indicate gross one-sidedness in favor of the seller include provisions that limit damages against the seller, limit the rights of the purchaser to seek court relief against the seller, or disclaim a Warranty. State and federal Consumer Protection and Consumer Credit laws were enacted to prevent many of these unconscionable contract provisions from being included in sales contracts.

Unconscionability is determined by examining the circumstances of the parties when the contract was made; these circumstances include, for example, the bargaining power, age, and mental capacity of the parties. The doctrine is applied only where it would be an affront to the integrity of the judicial system to enforce such contracts.

Unconscionable conduct is also found in acts of Fraud and deceit, where the deliberate Misrepresentation of fact deprives someone of a valuable possession. Whenever someone takes unconscionable advantage of another person, the action may be treated as criminal fraud or the civil action of deceit.No standardized criteria exist for measuring whether an action is unconscionable. A court of law applies its conscience, or moral sense, to the facts before it and makes a subjective judgment. The U.S. Supreme Court's "shock the conscience test" in rochin v. california, 342 U.S. 165, 72 S. Ct. 205, 96 L. Ed. 183 (1952), demonstrates this approach. The Court ruled that pumping the stomach of a criminal suspect in search of drugs offends "those canons of decency and fairness which express the notions of justice of English-speaking peoples." The Court relied on these general historical and moral traditions as the basis for ruling unconstitutional an unconscionable act.


adj. referring to a contract or bargain which is so unfair to a party that no reasonable or informed person would agree to it. In a suit for breach of contract, a court will not enforce an unconscionable contract (award damages or order specific performance) against the person unfairly treated on the theory that he/she was misled, lacked information, or signed under duress or misunderstanding. It is similar to an "adhesion contract," in which one party has taken advantage of a person dealing from weakness. (See: contract, adhesion contract)


adjective atrocious, blackguard, completely unreasonable, conniving, conscienceless, corrupt, criminal, designing, dishonest, dishonorable, excessive, exorbitant, extreme, grievous, grossly unjust, immoderate, impermissible, indefensible, inequitable, inexcusable, inexpiable, inordinate, intemperate, intriguing, knavish, monstrous, outrageous, preposterous, rascally, reprehensible, tricky, unbalanced, undue, unequal, unethical, unfair, unforgivable, unjust, unjustifiable, unprincipled, unreasonable, unscrupulous, wrong
Associated concepts: unconscionable bargain, unconncionable conduct, unconscionable contract
See also: excessive, exorbitant, immoral, inordinate, outrageous, perfidious, prohibitive, reprobate, unethical, unwarranted, usurious


morally abhorrent. In the legal context, from time to time and place to place the law insofar as not already incorporating moral issues allows exceptions to allow parties some degree of relief from being imposed upon. The modern legal conception tends to be discussed around the more practical and objective concept of inequality of bargaining position, which can help consumers as much as the more traditional beneficiary of protection the small debtor pressed for excessive interest or repossession.
References in periodicals archive ?
There, Mr Kakavas advanced a more passive unconscionable dealing claim, which, if successful, would automatically suffice to establish a contravention of s 51AA.
As such, the 14-day clause shall be stricken as unconscionable to avoid an unconscionable result.
The principles upon which a court will interfere with a concluded transaction and nullify it upon the ground that it is unconscionable have found frequent expression.
If everyone agrees, you have a much better chance to manage the expense and avoid fights over the scope of the arbitration clause, the scope of discovery, who must participate, and whether the clause is unconscionable.
The court said the class action ban was unconscionable not just because it was part of an arbitration clause, but because it was part of "a contract of adhesion that fails to inform the customer of the cost to her of arbitration, and that does not provide a cost-effective mechanism for individual customers to obtain a remedy for the specific injury alleged in either a judicial or an arbitral forum.
It's unconscionable for teachers to allow their own limitations to impair a student's progress.
That the MTA decided to go into exclusive negotiations with Ratner, instead of negotiating with both, especially since Extell offered three times the amount of money, is unconscionable," said Daniel Goldstein, spokesman for the community activist group, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn.
Without volunteers helping, many taxpayers end up paying unconscionable amounts for refund anticipation loans and other "products" offered by commercial preparers.
Passing the collection plate to the taxpayer is unconscionable.
It is unconscionable that we as a church require the commitment indicated in your Primate by numbers story.
It is a story that should be read by everyone, because the atrocities these children suffer are unconscionable.
Muldoon's afterlife presence, Facchini suggests, had less to do with his missing episcopal ring and more to do with the unconscionable lack of any pastoral ministry under Pastor Kane and housekeeper Margaret.