1. Introduction to Contract Law

Contract law is fascinating as most people will have unknowingly formed a legally binding contract at some point in their life. This guide will take you on a journey through a contract, giving comprehensive explanations and guidance on each part of contract law. It is important that each section is learned, as many of the principles operate in tandem and are better understood with knowledge of each section.Here is a breakdown of the main sections:

  • 2. Formation - How is a contract formed, how does an individual create a legally binding agreement with another and what may prevent an agreement operating as a contract?
  • 3. Privity Of Contract - Exactly who are contractual obligations owed to?
  • 4. Construction - What kind of obligations can be included in a contract?
  • 5. Vitiating Factors - When might a contract be void, or voidable?
  • 6. Discharge Of Obligations - At what point are the parties free from their contractual obligations?
  • 7. Remedies

What exactly is a contract?

Simply put, a contract can be described as a legally binding oral or written agreement which exchanges any combination of goods, services, money and property. It is a common misconception that a contract may only be in written form, as oral or conduct agreements can be just as credible in contract formation. A contract is unique in that unless certain exceptions apply, parties are free to agree to whatever terms they choose, this is known as the ‘freedom of contract’.

You may unknowingly enter hundreds of contracts a year, for example, in buying groceries from a supermarket, you have entered into a contract for the exchange of money in return for goods. This is an example of a very simple contract, but contracts can be extremely complex, owing to the parties’ freedom to agree to whatever terms they see fit.

What are the sources of contract law?

Contractual relations are between individuals, and therefore contract law is a form of civil law. The dominant source of contract law is common law, whereby the previous decisions of the courts form part of the current law. There are also various statutory provisions which support contract law, one example which will be discussed later in this guide is the Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977.

What is contract law and what does it aim to do?

Contract law aims to provide an effective legal framework for contracting parties to resolve their disputes and regulate their contractual obligations. The law of contract is mostly self-regulatory, with the majority of contracts requiring no intervention. The courts make no consideration for whether the contract was fair or not; if it was agreed, it should be enforced. Despite this, on some occasions, the courts are willing to depart from the principal of contractual freedom. This is often where there has been an abuse of bargaining power by one contracting party.