Reasonable time is that amount of time which is fairly necessary, conveniently, to do whatever is required to be done, as soon as circumstances permit.[1]

This phrase is a U.S. legal term that has been a topic of controversy for many years. It is generally used in reference to performing an action or remitting payment, but this is a very vague term which causes litigation problems in many court cases. Uniform Commercial Code section 2-206(2) requires that acceptance of an offer be made within a "reasonable time" if no time is specified:

Where the beginning of a requested performance is a reasonable mode of acceptance, an offeror who is not notified of acceptance within a reasonable time may treat the offer as having lapsed before acceptance.[2]

European Union law refers in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union to:

Every person has the right to have his or her affairs handled impartially, fairly and within a reasonable time by the institutions, bodies, offices and agencies of the Union (Article 41)
Everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal previously established by law (Article 47).[3]

In 1998 the European Court of Justice reduced the fine imposed on German business Baustahlgewebe for breach of the EU competition rules. In 1989 the European Commission had adopted a determination that 14 producers of welded steel mesh had engaged in unlawful restrictions of competition.[4] Baustahlgewebe appealed against the decision on 20 October 1989 but the Court of First Instance did not rule on the case until 6 April 1995, five years and six months later. The Court of Justice held that the case had not been determined within a reasonable time and reduced the ECU 3 million fine by ECU 50,000 (a reduction of 1.67%).[5]


  1. ^ Lehman, Jeffrey; Phelps, Shirelle (2005). West's Encyclopedia of American Law, Vol. 8. Detroit: Thomson/Gale. p. 247. ISBN 9780787663759.
  2. ^ Legal Information Institute, UCC 2-20692): Offer and Acceptance in Formation of Contract, accessed 16 April 2017
  3. ^ European Parliament, Council and Commission, Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, 26 October 2012
  4. ^ European Commission, Decision 89/15/EEC, 2 August 1989
  5. ^ European Court of Justice, Press Release 81/98, The Court of Justice applies "reasonable time" rule and reduces fine imposed on company, 17 December 1998