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Is it a Contract?

In the modern world of media, apps, emails, social media and so on it is becoming increasingly easier to communicate both in our personal lives and in business.

Increasingly in business people are utilising these mediums to get messages both to their customers and suppliers. With the instant delivery of information business can take place at speed and without delay.

A problem that stems from these instant communications is whether, they can be relied upon in law. It is becoming an increasingly common question posed by clients- Can I be bound by my email/text/social media? The context of these questions is usually in reference to contract law. Can someone be bound to a contract when it is by email, text or on social media?

In order to answer this question it is important to understand what a contract actually is. A contract is a legally binding agreement. A contract is formed when you have the key ingredients of; an offer, an acceptance, consideration (I.e. the parties must both receive a benefit and suffer a burden) and the parties had an intention to be bound. In law it is an established principle that contracts can be formed both orally and in writing. Similarly case law has gone before the courts which confirms that a fax or an email can form a contract. Therefore the simple answer is yes, in texting or messaging a customer or a supplier you could be legally bound to the obligations you communicate.

It is common place for people to be somewhat concerned about the formalities of the law and formal contracts but the truth is a text or an email is just as legally binding as a formal agreement. The only difference being, with a formal contract all eventualities can be catered for and the parties can be certain about what the contract means for them. A difficulty with emails, text or instant messages is uncertainty and also whether they are kept. It is essential that any communication which agrees terms should be kept for the future in case any dispute arises. Care needs to be taken as it is so easily done, a quick text agreeing for goods for a fixed price, the goods come and then the price is different, but the text has been deleted. Where does this leave you? The short answer is, it is dependent on the circumstance, but you still may be able to enforce the original price and this is where we may be able to help.

If you are unsure about your supplier or customer agreements or have a dispute with a customer or a supplier we are happy to help you out. We pride ourselves in offering commercial and concise advice with a view to getting disputes resolved as quickly and cheaply as possible. If you do require our assistance contact our commercial litigation department on 0161 833 4666.

Alison Rocca

Author Alison Rocca

Alison is a solicitor in our Litigation department.

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