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Cover Poole's Textbook on Contract Law

3. Enforceability of promises: consideration and promissory estoppel  

Robert Merkin, Séverine Saintier, and Jill Poole

Course-focused and comprehensive, Poole’s Textbook on Contract Law provides an accessible overview of the key areas on the law curriculum. Under English law, bargains and not gratuitous promises are enforced, thus a promise will not be enforceable if it is not contained in a deed (implying that any promise is taken seriously) or supported by consideration. Consideration refers to an act or a promise given in exchange for the promise (that is, the price for which the other’s promise was bought). The law does not recognize some acts or promises as good consideration, such as past consideration and performance of an existing legal duty. This chapter examines the general requirement in English law to provide consideration in order to enforce a contractual promise. The consideration requirement is relevant not only to the formation of a contract but also to the enforceability of promises altering the terms of an existing contract (alterations). An alteration promise that is not supported by consideration may still have some binding effect on the basis of the doctrine of promissory estoppel.

Chapter

Cover Poole's Textbook on Contract Law

3. Enforceability of promises: consideration and promissory estoppel  

Robert Merkin KC, Séverine Saintier, and Jill Poole

Course-focused and comprehensive, Poole’s Textbook on Contract Law provides an accessible overview of the key areas of the law curriculum. Under English law, bargains and not gratuitous promises are enforced, thus a promise will not be enforceable if it is not contained in a deed (implying that any promise is taken seriously) or supported by consideration. Consideration refers to an act or a promise given in exchange for the promise (that is, the price for which the other’s promise was bought). The law does not recognize some acts or promises as good consideration, such as past consideration and performance of an existing legal duty. This chapter examines the general requirement in English law to provide consideration in order to enforce a contractual promise. The consideration requirement is relevant not only to the formation of a contract but also to the enforceability of promises altering the terms of an existing contract (alterations). An alteration promise that is not supported by consideration may still have some binding effect on the basis of the doctrine of promissory estoppel.

Chapter

Cover Poole's Casebook on Contract Law

3. Enforceability of promises: consideration and promissory estoppel  

Robert Merkin KC, Séverine Saintier, and Jill Poole

Poole’s Casebook on Contract Law provides a comprehensive selection of case law that addresses all aspects of the subject encountered on undergraduate courses. In order to be enforceable, a promise must either be supported by consideration or be expressed in the form of a deed. This stems from the assumption in English contract law that only bargains should be enforced. This chapter examines the enforceability of promises, focusing on consideration and promissory estoppel. The case law has addressed what can constitute consideration and whether a promise can be enforced in the absence of consideration. The chapter focuses particularly on the enforceability of alteration promises, discusses part-payment of a debt, when and how the doctrine of promissory estoppel will operate, and how far the doctrine can be extended.

Chapter

Cover Essential Cases: Contract Law

Pao On & others v Lau Yiu Long and another [1980] AC 614  

Essential Cases: Contract Law provides a bridge between course textbooks and key case judgments. This case document summarizes the facts and decision in Pao On & others v Lau Yiu Long & another [1980] AC 614. The document also includes supporting commentary from author Nicola Jackson.

Chapter

Cover Essential Cases: Contract Law 5e

Pao On & others v Lau Yiu Long and another [1980] AC 614  

Essential Cases: Contract Law provides a bridge between course textbooks and key case judgments. This case document summarizes the facts and decision in Pao On & others v Lau Yiu Long & another [1980] AC 614. The document also includes supporting commentary from author Nicola Jackson.

Chapter

Cover Contract Law

5. Consideration and Promissory Estoppel  

The doctrine of consideration is one feature of English contract law that readily distinguishes it from the law of contract in civilian jurisdictions. Its essence is that a promisee cannot enforce a promise unless he has given or promised to give something in exchange for the promise, or unless the promisor has obtained (or been promised) something in return. In other words, there must have been a bargain between the parties. This chapter analyses the current scope of the doctrine of consideration, particularly the rule that consideration must be sufficient but need not be adequate; the pre-existing duty rule and the question whether a promise to pay, or part payment of a debt, is good consideration for the discharge of the entire deb; and the rule that past consideration is not good consideration. It also examines the role of promissory estoppel in contract cases. An estoppel gives (at least limited) effect to a promise that would otherwise be unenforceable (it may be used as a shield but not a sword), thus the effect of an estoppel may be to supplement, or even supplant, the doctrine of consideration. The chapter concludes with a brief discussion of the future of the doctrine of consideration and, in particular, draws on the critique of consideration developed by Professor Atiyah.

Chapter

Cover Poole's Casebook on Contract Law

3. Enforceability of promises: consideration and promissory estoppel  

Robert Merkin and Séverine Saintier

Poole’s Casebook on Contract Law provides a comprehensive selection of case law that addresses all aspects of the subject encountered on undergraduate courses. In order to be enforceable, a promise must either be supported by consideration or be expressed in the form of a deed. This stems from the assumption in English contract law that only bargains should be enforced. This chapter examines the enforceability of promises, focusing on consideration and promissory estoppel. The case law has addressed what can constitute consideration and whether a promise can be enforced in the absence of consideration. The chapter focuses particularly on the enforceability of alteration promises, discusses part-payment of a debt, when and how the doctrine of promissory estoppel will operate, and how far the doctrine can be extended.