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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 ?
It is sardonic for the government, which rode to power on the crest of its assurance that it possesses the capacity to deal with Boko Haram insurgency and other security issues in a matter of few months in power, to continue to unconscionably fumble and unravel as grimly incapable, after all, to deal with insecurity three years in the saddle.
Unconscionably, Oxfam then failed to warn other agencies about these rotten apples.
Orlando's family, too, is unconscionably cruel to her -- save for his brother, Gabo (Luis Gnecco), who seems to be the only person in the film empathetic to the fact that Marina is just a human who has lost a loved one.
I take this to mean that I will never need to sell my body or mortgage my soul to buy her an Hermes bag, a Patek Philippe watch, or any other unconscionably expensive gift which I can never afford.
Shehbaz has no sense of morals, the 'king' was clapping unconscionably.
Unconscionably, Mr Bhutto's name has been misspelt as 'Zulfiqar' instead of his preferred 'Zulfikar'.
The Obama administration unconscionably vetoed this project, creating uncertainty that would have created about 800 jobs in Montana, help keep electricity prices affordable for families, and generate more than $80 million in Montana property taxes, more than $16 million of which would be distributed to Montanas schools and university system.
Addressing the issues of the day, in common they believed that government could force big business to recognize the rights of organized labor and could protect industrial workers from long hours, inhumane conditions, and unconscionably low pay.