A contract is a legally enforceable agreement made between two or more people or organizations. The people who enter into the contract are called the parties to the contract.  

Consumer contracts are made between a buyer and a seller when a buyer offers to buy something, the seller accepts, and they agree to exchange the goods or services for something of value, usually money. 

The law says the basic essential elements of a contract are: offer, acceptance, and consideration (something of value exchanged).  A contract must be for a legal purpose, and it must be voluntary.  A contract does not have to be in writing.   An oral or verbal contract is valid as long as it has the essential elements of a contract. A written contract, however, will provide a record of the terms the parties agree to.  Some special types of contract must be in writing to be enforceable.  An example is a contract to purchase real property.

For example, you go to a store to buy a new shirt.   You select a shirt and bring it to the clerk. The clerk scans a tag-on the shirt and both of you see a price of $20. You take a $20 bill from your wallet and place it on the counter (this is the offer). The clerk takes the money (this is the acceptance) and gives you the shirt (this is the consideration – a $20 bill exchanged for a shirt). The clerk also hands you a receipt. The receipt "memorializes" (is written proof of) the contract, but it is not required to have a valid contract. This transaction represents a contractual relationship between the buyer (you) and the seller (the store).

Last reviewed: June 2022