Dec 4, 2023.

Contract law regulates all types of contracts: purchase agreements, rental contracts and more. If both parties interpret formalised agreements differently, legal disputes often arise. We asked contract law expert, Oliver Schöni, about his experiences and for some practical advice for our readers. The lawyer has worked in this field at Fortuna Legal Protection Insurance since 2012.

Oliver, when did you start dealing with the legal area of contract law?

I’ve been dealing with contract law since I started working at Fortuna over ten years ago. I’ve handled numerous contract law cases as part of my job, gaining a wealth of experience that has given me an in-depth understanding of contract law. In addition, this has also helped me to provide our policyholders with professional support in contract law matters.


What does this branch of law actually cover? 

There are contractual disputes in various branches of law involving contracts and agreements between parties. This generally includes purchase agreements and work contracts, such as for construction work or repairs, for example. Service contracts, such as for medical treatment, as well as employment contracts, rental contracts and other service agreements, are rather more specific. Problems can arise in many areas, from contract conclusion, through contractual provisions and breaches, to contract cancellation.


My remit also includes reviewing contracts. I check contracts of differing types and complexity to ensure they’re legally sound and adequately protect the interests of our insured parties. I also assist our policyholders in the event of contractual disputes. In this case, I provide legal advice and examine claims, either asserting or defending these. I also help them take legal action.

These are just a few examples. Contract law can vary depending on the country and legal system. It’s a varied and complex branch of law that plays an important role in many commercial and everyday matters.

What particularly interests you about contract law?

Contract law creates a clear framework for agreements between parties. It also provides protection and legal security for parties, by safeguarding their interests and rights in agreements. But contracts are or can often be interpreted differently. 


Contract law disputes can be extremely diverse. So it’s useful to continually keep abreast of contract law case law, as well as new technological and social developments. This ensures that you’re always up to date. Contract law is also a constantly changing branch of law. I’m particularly fascinated by the way in which contract law regulates individual interests and financial activities.

Do you recall a particular case from this branch of law?

A few years ago, I represented a policyholder in a case involving a contract with a so-called registry shark to register her hairdressing business online. Registry sharks usually attempt to sell expensive entries in useless industry registers. Our policyholder had signed such a contract while still extremely confused following an accident. 


However, we were able to argue that she was incapable of judgement when signing the contract, due to the accident. The contract was therefore annulled. This isn’t a special case, but I remember her thanking us with the words “Fortuna is a blessing in disguise”. 


Which contract law questions are you frequently asked? 

When providing contract law advice, our policyholders often ask a variety of questions. When concluding a contract, they may want to know: how can I ensure that a contract is legally valid and binding? Questions about contract terms often involve changing the provisions of an existing contract. 


I’m also asked what can be done if the other contracting partner fails to meet their obligations. This happens with guarantees in purchase agreements, for example. Last but not least, one question constantly comes up: under what circumstances and how can a contract be annulled or terminated? The answers to these questions can vary from case to case. 

How often do contract law cases result in a legal dispute?

The frequency of legal disputes in the area of contract law can vary enormously. One thing is certain: there are always a great many questions and cases regarding contract law. Following a contract law consultation or intervention by legal protection insurance, however, contract law disputes are usually settled out of court. Alternative methods of resolving contractual disputes, such as mediation, are also extremely successful. Otherwise, legal action must be taken. However, I’d like to emphasise at this point that the settlement and timely resolution of contractual disputes is often more cost-effective and efficient for everyone involved than protracted court proceedings.

Why is legal protection insurance useful for contract law disputes?

Contractual disputes can be extremely complex and legal fees and court costs can quickly mount up. In my opinion, legal protection for legally binding advice and support is therefore advisable in the area of contract law. Fortuna’s legal experts help policyholders make decisions and develop solutions that are both legally • “superior” and sustainable. 

What advice do you give customers to prevent problems in the area of contract law?

There are some tried and tested tips for preventing problems in the area of contract law and reduce the likelihood of contractual disputes: read every contract thoroughly before signing and concluding it. If in doubt, it’s better to have a written contract, even if you have a verbal agreement. And make sure the contract wording is clear and precise. 


I also think dispute prevention measures are useful. This means that individuals and managers invest in contract law advice and conflict resolution mechanisms before a contract is concluded or terminated, via legal protection insurance, for example. Contractual disputes can, therefore, be avoided and disputes between parties can be resolved without going to court.

What do you like the most about your job as a lawyer for Fortuna Legal Protection Insurance?

I find it satisfying when I’m able to help people resolve their disputes. I also like it when I can generally show that legal disputes can be resolved amicably. But this always needs at least two sides to agree and be willing to compromise. Or to put it another way: contractual disputes usually involve both “Yes” and “No”. No, I have a different opinion, but yes, let’s work together to find a solution.


“Following a contract law consultation or intervention by legal protection insurance, contractual disputes can usually be settled out of court.”


Oliver Schöni, Contract Law Expert at Fortuna

Oliver studied Law and works as both a lawyer and mediator. He has worked in the Contract Law Department at Fortuna Legal Protection Insurance for over ten years. He has also completed various training courses in mediation and conflict negotiation. Oliver has a Masters in Law from the University of Bern.


Fortuna Legal Protection Insurance – a subsidiary of Generali Switzerland – has been helping customers to access justice for 50 years. During this time, it has grown significantly and now applies the expertise and experience of over 100 employees in 31 branches of law.