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Poole's Casebook on Contract Law

Poole's Casebook on Contract Law (16th edn)

Robert Merkin KC and Séverine Saintier
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date: 21 July 2024

p. 212. Agreementlocked

p. 212. Agreementlocked

  • Robert Merkin KC, Robert Merkin KCProfessor of Commercial Law Reading Law School, University of Reading
  • Séverine SaintierSéverine SaintierProfessor in Commercial Law Cardiff School of Law and Politics, Cardiff University
  •  and Jill PooleJill Poole50th Anniversary Professor of Commercial Law and Head of Aston Law Deputy Dean, Aston Business School, Aston University


Poole’s Casebook on Contract Law provides a comprehensive selection of case law that addresses all aspects of the subject encountered on undergraduate courses. A contract is a legally enforceable agreement. This chapter explains how the existence of an agreement is determined. After considering how the courts assess whether an agreement has been, using subjective and objective methods, it discusses the precise criteria used to determine agreement, namely offer and acceptance. The chapter defines offers and distinguishes them from invitations to treat. It focuses on identifying acceptances and distinguishing acceptances from responses which are not a mirror image of the offer, such as counter-offers. Much emphasis is placed on explaining the communication principles applicable to acceptances—postal and instantaneous communications, including email. The chapter explains revocations of offers and the communication principles applicable to revocations. The courts will enforce an agreement only if it is sufficiently certain in its terms. This chapter therefore considers how the courts deal with vagueness and incompleteness, including agreements to agree and whether there can ever be a duty to negotiate in good faith. It also examines the position where there is no contract due to uncertainty, but there has been performance. Finally, the chapter distinguishes bilateral and unilateral contracts and the special principles applicable to unilateral contracts.

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