NEC ECC: When is "starting date" if contracts are signed late?

I as Contractor have signed the contract, but Employer did not signed and return copy for a further four weeks beyond the “starting date” as indicated in contract data 1. “Starting date” was meant to be 2nd Jan which was when we the Contractor signed, and yet contract was not signed by them until 30th Jan and then finally a dual-signed copy returned to us.

When did we enter into contract? As Contractor we chose not to place any orders before we knew we had a signed contract – whose liability is this now? Should the “starting date” and hence Completion Date all move on four weeks? If not, why should we have to act at risk whilst we do not know if they will actually sign the contract??

The “starting date” is the date defined in Contract Data Part One. Once the contract is signed that is the date that will be effective, whether it is before, at the same time as or after the date of signature or, more importantly, a contract being created.

A contract comes into existence, basically, at the point there is agreement on all the essential terms. Usually you will be looking for an accepted offer to do something for value. Signature on a contract is evidence of a contract existing but does not prevent a contract arising before that.

What you describe is the dilemma faced by contractors where an employer (client) is rushing a job through to start . The risk is with the contractor UNLESS contract award is a date in the programme by which the Employer is required to do something (ie sign and return the contract). If that is the case then there may be a CE under 60.1(5). Equally, if access was denied pending contract award then 60.1(3) may be relevant.

Why is starting date in the Contract Data (i.e. stated but not defined) and not defined in the definitions as completion date is?