Interfoto v Stiletto

March 04, 2024
Micheal James

Jurisdiction / Tag(s):


In the bustling creative hub of 1980s London, a seemingly routine rental agreement between Interfoto Picture Library and Stiletto Visual Programmes morphed into a legal battle, illuminating the intricacies of contractual terms and conditions, particularly the elusive notion of “reasonable notice.” Interfoto v Stiletto, decided in 1989, stands as a cautionary tale for both businesses and individuals, whispering a poignant reminder: in the labyrinthine realm of agreements, the devil truly can reside in the details.

Facts of the Case

  • Interfoto Picture Library (IPL): A company renting photographic transparencies to clients in the media industry.
  • Stiletto Visual Programmes (SVP): A client of IPL, using transparencies for their projects.
  • Deliveries: Accompanied by notes containing clauses on return deadlines (14 days) and damage responsibility, printed in fine print.
  • Dispute: SVP returned transparencies late and did not use the standard return form, claiming unawareness of the terms on the delivery note.

Arguments of the Parties

  • Interfoto:
    • Argued the delivery note’s terms formed a valid part of the contract, emphasizing prominence of the document and signature as acceptance.
    • Demanded compensation for late return and potential damage due to non-compliance with the terms.
  • Stiletto:
    • Claimed unawareness of the terms due to small print and lack of prior use of the standard return form.
    • Contested liability for late return and damage, citing lack of proper notice and acceptance of the terms.

Court’s Verdict and Reasoning

  • The court ruled in favor of Interfoto, upholding the validity of the terms and finding SVP liable for the delayed return.
  • Justice Hobhouse acknowledged the importance of fair notice but deemed the delivery note, though small, fulfilled the requirement due to its accompanying documents and signature acceptance.
  • SVP’s obligation to familiarize themselves with the terms arose from signing the document, regardless of awareness of specific clauses.
  • However, the court dismissed the claim for potential damage due to insufficient evidence.

Analysis and Impact

  • Interfoto v Stiletto reaffirms the principle of contractual terms binding when displayed prominently and accepted through signing.
  • The case clarifies that signing accompanying documents implies an obligation to review their contents, even if specific terms are inconspicuous.
  • However, it also highlights the importance of clarity and fairness in terms and conditions, emphasizing the need for prominent display and accessible language.


Interfoto v Stiletto serves as a reminder that the fine print in contracts matters. Both businesses and individuals must be vigilant. Businesses must ensure clarity and prominence of terms, while individuals must take responsibility for reviewing them. Ultimately, the case encourages transparency and awareness in agreements, ensuring mutual understanding and fair exchange.

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