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Contract and tort

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England and Wales
Northern Ireland



In English common law, a contract is a legally binding promise or set of promises between one person and another.

The law of contract is part of the common law and has been developed by the courts in the separate UK jurisdictions. The old principles of people's freedom to enter into any contract they wish are subject to a number of constraints, notably that contracts will be void or unenforceable if made for an unlawful purpose or in an unlawful manner.

After the Second World War, contract law became increasingly affected by competition law  stautes. In the filed of consumer contracts, freedom to contract has been heavily constrained by consumer protection legislation, initiated both domestically (e.e. the Sale of Goods Acts and the Unfair Contract Terms Act, and by EU legislation now implement in the UK by e.g. The Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 and the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999.

England and Wales

Creation of a contract

The essential elements for the formation of a contract in English law are:

* Offer in certain terms to enter into a contract;

* Acceptance of those terms without conditions and communicated to the offeror;

*Consideration given by the person who wishes to enforce the promise, e.g. the price;

* Intention to create a legal relationship;

* Capacity i.e each party to the contact must have legal capacity to make a contract; e.g. a minor (person under 18) does not generally have capacity to contract..

The old rule of 'privity' of contract, whereby a person who was not a party to a contract could not rely on its terms was abolished in 1999. Since the Contracts (Rights of Third Parties) Act 1999, a person who is not a party to a contract (a “third party”) may in his own right enforce a term of the contract if the contract expressly provides that he may, or the term purports to confer a benefit on him. This right may be excluded by the contract.

In modern times, there has been increasing interference in the law of contract by legislation, in particular regarding the sale of goods and supply of services.

Wikipedia contains a good article on English contract law.

Basics of a legal contract

For more detailed informatin on the followings topics of contract law, go to: Basics – contract for sale:

* Contract for sale
* Creation of the contract
* Freedom of contract
* Oral or writing
* Implied terms of contract
* Terms and conditions
* Retail sales – shops and markets
* Custom and usage
* Terms implied by a course of dealing
* Terms and conditions of sale – the small print
* Contract procedure and the “battle of forms”
* Purchase contracts
* Real life issues
* Misrepresentation
* Mistakes
* Pricing errors
* Late payments

Sale of goods and supply of services and marketing and advertising

There is more detail on the subject of the law relating to the sale of goods and supply of services sales and supplies to consumers, and on the related subjects of regulation of marketing and advertising law in the Selling and Marketing section.

Northern Ireland

it appears that the law is the same as in England and Wales.


The law is different in Scotland; in particular, 'consideration' is ot an essential element for a binding contract. Wikipedia has a brief article.

[Page updated: 10/01/2016]


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See also:

< Basics – contract for sale

<Selling and Marketing section.