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Cover Anson's Law of Contract

4. Consideration And Promissory Estoppel  

Jack Beatson, Andrew Burrows, and John Cartwright

This chapter discusses consideration and promissory estoppel. Consideration, a universal requisite of contracts not made by deed, reflects a variety of policies and serves a number of functions. First, enforceability may depend on the content of the promise or the circumstances in which it was made. Second, consideration has been said to identify which promises the parties intend to be legally enforceable. Third, consideration is sometimes seen as a requirement which ensures that a promisor has deliberately decided to contract and prevents parties accidentally binding themselves on impulse. Promissory estoppel is one strand in a broader equitable principle whereby parties to a transaction who have conducted their dealings in reliance on an underlying assumption as to a present, past, or future state of affairs, or on a promise or representation by words or conduct, will not be allowed to go back on that assumption, promise, or representation when it would be unfair or unjust to do so.

Chapter

Cover Complete Contract Law

5. Consideration and Promissory Estoppel  

This chapter evaluates the other requirement for an agreement to be legally enforceable: consideration. In its simplest form, consideration is often described as being something of value that is given (or promised) by each party in exchange for the other party’s promise or performance. Disputes concerning consideration usually begin by one party claiming that the other is in breach of their contract. The other party then argues that no consideration had been given in return for what they promised to do, and therefore the agreement is not enforceable. In a case concerning consideration, courts will typically focus on the obligations to be enforced, and then work out if something of value was given (or promised) in return for the performance of those obligations. Sometimes, a strict application of the consideration requirement is a barrier to reflecting the parties’ intentions. For that reason, the courts have developed a more relaxed approach in certain circumstances. There is also a limited exception to the requirement for consideration, which is known as promissory estoppel.

Chapter

Cover Contract Law

3. Enforceability: consideration, promissory estoppel, formalities  

Agreement is necessary but not sufficient to trigger legal recognition and thus enforcement. An informal agreement must comprise an exchange in which each party treats her performance (or promise of performance) as the price of the other’s performance (or promise of performance). Absent consideration, English law permits some enforcement, in qualifying circumstances, of promises that induce the promisee’s reliance via the doctrine of promissory estoppel. It also enforces formal promises or agreements. This chapter discusses: (1) the requirements of consideration, promissory estoppel, and formalities; (2) the justification for each test of enforceability; (3) whether the rules and scope of each doctrine are satisfactory, and, if not, how each should each be developed.

Chapter

Cover JC Smith's The Law of Contract

7. Consideration and promissory estoppel  

This chapter analyses the issue of consideration in contract law. Contracts are generally binding only if supported by consideration. Consideration can be viewed as ‘the price tag on the promise’: a party must provide something in exchange for the promise in order to be able to enforce that promise. That ‘something’ is called ‘consideration’, and might itself be a promise. The requirement of consideration is demanded by the common law. But, in some situations, equity will allow a promisee to enforce a promise, despite a lack of consideration, through the doctrine of promissory estoppel. Where the promisor makes a clear promise, intended to be binding, intended to be acted upon, and in fact acted upon, the courts will not allow the promisor to act inconsistently with that promise if to do so would be unconscionable.

Chapter

Cover Contract Law

5. Non-contractual promises  

Promissory and proprietary estoppel

This chapter considers how promissory and proprietary estoppel intersect with the law of contract. Where an agreement is unenforceable at contract law because some legal prerequisite or formality has not been met, that role is played by the law of estoppel. The law of estoppel works by deeming a party to be legally prevented (‘estopped’) from going back on something she has in the past asserted, promised, or accepted. The effect of estoppel is to hold the person to that past assertion or promise, by preventing her from resiling from it. This chapter first examines the context of promissory estoppel before discussing its requirements and its effect, such as suspending rights and extinguishing debts. It then explains the requirements of proprietary estoppel; namely, there must be a promise or encouragement, the promise or encouragement must induce reasonable reliance, reliance must be detrimental, and unconscionability.

Chapter

Cover Koffman, Macdonald & Atkins' Law of Contract

5. Promissory estoppel  

This chapter explores the doctrine of promissory estoppel and the case of Central London Property Trust Ltd v High Trees House Ltd. Denning J’s judgment in that case envisioned its application in the part payment of a debt situation to provide a means of preventing the promisor reneging on his or her promise not to seek the whole of the debt. It looks at English law’s restriction of promissory estoppel to preventing promisors going back on promises not to enforce rights, rather than creating new obligations. The considerable uncertainty surrounding the doctrine is explored (e.g. in relation to the extent to which it extinguishes rights, rather than merely suspending them, and what is required to trigger the estoppel (detrimental reliance on the promise or it being inequitable to go back on it)).

Chapter

Cover O'Sullivan & Hilliard's The Law of Contract

5. Consideration and estoppel  

Titles in the Core Text series take the reader straight to the heart of the subject, providing focused, concise, and reliable guides for students at all levels. This chapter explores and defends the consideration requirement in the enforceability of contractual obligations, both when the contract is formed and if it is varied, refuting some of the criticisms calling for the requirement of consideration to be reformed or abolished in English law. It defines consideration as the ‘price of the promise’ and clarifies that an act or promise must have been requested by the promisor to count as consideration. It explores issues such as past consideration, performance of an existing contractual duty, and part payment of a debt, for which latter issue the common law rule is ameliorated by the equitable doctrine of promissory estoppel.

Chapter

Cover Contract Law Directions

4. Consideration and estoppel  

Without assuming prior legal knowledge, books in the Directions series introduce and guide readers through key points of law and legal debate. Questions, diagrams and exercises help readers to engage fully with each subject and check their understanding as they progress. This chapter explains the nature of consideration with the aid of examples and discusses two basic definitions of consideration (consideration as a legal benefit or burden and as the price of a promise) as well as the past consideration rule. It addresses whether performance of an existing duty can count as a legal benefit or burden to form consideration for a promise. It considers existing public duties, existing duties owed to a third party and existing duties owed to the promisor. The chapter examines the related rules concerning part payment of a debt and the extent to which promises not supported by consideration can be enforced using promissory estoppel.

Chapter

Cover Essential Cases: Contract Law

Central London Property Trust Ltd v High Trees House Ltd [1947] KB 130  

Essential Cases: Contract Law provides a bridge between course textbooks and key case judgments. This case document summarizes the facts and decision in Central London Property Trust Ltd v High Trees House Ltd [1947] KB 130. The document also includes supporting commentary from author Nicola Jackson.

Chapter

Cover Essential Cases: Contract Law

Rock Advertising Ltd v MWB Business Exchange Centres Ltd [2018] UKSC 24  

Essential Cases: Contract Law provides a bridge between course textbooks and key case judgments. This case document summarizes the facts and decision in Rock Advertising Ltd v MWB Business Exchange Centres Ltd [2018] UKSC 24. The document also includes supporting commentary from author Nicola Jackson.

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Cover Essential Cases: Contract Law 5e

Central London Property Trust Ltd v High Trees House Ltd [1947] KB 130  

Essential Cases: Contract Law provides a bridge between course textbooks and key case judgments. This case document summarizes the facts and decision in Central London Property Trust Ltd v High Trees House Ltd [1947] KB 130. The document also includes supporting commentary from author Nicola Jackson.

Chapter

Cover Essential Cases: Contract Law 5e

Rock Advertising Ltd v MWB Business Exchange Centres Ltd [2018] UKSC 24  

Essential Cases: Contract Law provides a bridge between course textbooks and key case judgments. This case document summarizes the facts and decision in Rock Advertising Ltd v MWB Business Exchange Centres Ltd [2018] UKSC 24. The document also includes supporting commentary from author Nicola Jackson.

Book

Cover Anson's Law of Contract

Jack Beatson FBA, Andrew Burrows FBA, QC (Hon), and John Cartwright

Anson’s Law of Contract offers an accurate and authoritative account of the law and its underlying principles. This 31st edition continues to provide comprehensive and detailed coverage of all topics covered on modern contract law courses, and has been revised and updated to incorporate all notable developments in case law, legislation, and academic debate. Topics covered include, in the first part, the agreement, the formation of the contract, and promissory estoppel. The second part looks at the terms of the contract, exemption clauses, and unfair terms. Next the book looks at incapacity, mistake, misrepresentation and non-disclosure, duress, and illegality. The fourth part considers performance and discharge. The next part looks at damages and specific remedies. The sixth part of the book covers third parties, assignment and agency in terms of the limits of the contractual obligation.

Chapter

Cover Contract Law Directions

4. Consideration and estoppel  

Without assuming prior legal knowledge, books in the Directions series introduce and guide readers through key points of law and legal debate. Questions, diagrams and exercises help readers to engage fully with each subject and check their understanding as they progress. This chapter explains the nature of consideration with the aid of examples and discusses two basic definitions of consideration (consideration as a legal benefit or burden and as the price of a promise) as well as the past consideration rule. It addresses whether performance of an existing duty can count as a legal benefit or burden to form consideration for a promise. It considers existing public duties, existing duties owed to a third party and existing duties owed to the promisor. The chapter examines the related rules concerning part payment of a debt and the extent to which promises not supported by consideration can be enforced using promissory estoppel.

Book

Cover Contract Law Concentrate

Jill Poole, James Devenney, and Adam Shaw-Mellors

Each Concentrate revision guide is packed with essential information, key cases, revision tips, exam Q&As, and more. Concentrates show you what to expect in a law exam, what examiners are looking for, and how to achieve extra marks. Contract Law Concentrate contains a wealth of information on the field of contract law to aid with revision and understanding the elements of the contract law syllabus. It looks specifically at the components of agreement, enforceability criteria comprising intention to create legal relations, consideration, and the doctrine of promissory estoppel. It also focuses on some problems associated with reaching agreement, such as whether the terms are sufficiently certain, and mistakes which prevent agreement. The doctrine of privity determines who has the ability to enforce the contract and whether a third party can take the intended benefit of a contract. Contract Law Concentrate focuses on the terms (or promises) of the contract and breach of contract when those promises are broken. It also examines exemption clauses and unfair contract terms. Next it looks at remedies for the breach of contract. It then turns to contractual impossibility and risk where the default rules of common mistake (initial impossibility) and frustration (subsequent impossibility) will determine the parties’ positions in the absence of party allocation. Finally, it outlines contractual remedies for actionable misrepresentations and looks briefly at the common law doctrine of duress and the equitable doctrine of undue influence.

Chapter

Cover Contract Law Concentrate

3. Enforceability issues  

Intention to be bound, consideration, and promissory estoppel

Each Concentrate revision guide is packed with essential information, key cases, revision tips, exam Q&As, and more. Concentrates show you what to expect in a law exam, what examiners are looking for, and how to achieve extra marks. This chapter examines the question of whether the promises contained in the agreement are enforceable so that there is a legally binding contract in place (formation). It considers the parties’ intention to be legally bound and the need to establish that the promises are part of a bargain. The same bargain requirement applies to alteration promises, although the treatment of alteration promises is not as strict. It is possible for freely made alteration promises to be enforceable when not ‘paid for’ with another promise or action, e.g. by means of the doctrine of promissory estoppel.

Chapter

Cover Concentrate Questions and Answers Contract Law

3. Consideration and Intention to Create Legal Relations  

The Concentrate Questions and Answers series offers the best preparation for tackling exam questions. Each book includes typical questions, answer plans, suggested answers, and other features. This chapter explains the doctrine of consideration and other elements necessary for the enforceability of an agreement, such as an intention to create legal relations. The doctrine of consideration is shaped by three important rules: traditionally consideration must move from the promisee (a party must provide consideration if he is to sue on a promise); consideration must be sufficient but need not be adequate (both parties need only contribute something of value in the eyes of the law to the bargain, however disproportionate); and performance of an existing contract does not normally constitute sufficient consideration for any modification in the terms of that contract. The chapter also looks at the equitable doctrine of promissory estoppel.

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 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.