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Essential elements of a contract in Malaysia

Part A: Write an essay on the essential elements of a contract in Malaysia.

A contract is a legally binding agreement. It is not always easy to establish whether the basic
requirements of a contract, such as offer and acceptance, the necessity or otherwise of
consideration, the capacity of the parties, the reality of their consent, and so on, exist. Dicey
and Morris lay down a simple rule, [1] that ‘the formation of a contract is governed by that
law which would be the proper law of the contract if the contract was validly concluded’. In
Malaysia, the essential elements of a contract are Offer, Acceptance, Intention to create legal
relations, and Consideration.


In order for a contract to be created, one of the parties must make an offer to the other party.
A person who makes an offer is known as an offeror. A person to whom an offer is made is
known as an offeree. An offer is made when an offeror proposes a set of terms to an offeree,
with the intention that if the proposed terms are accepted they wil create a binding contract
between the two parties. By accepting the terms proposed, the offeree would aso agree to
become legally bound by them. This acceptance would therefore form a contract. As a
contract is a legally binding agreement, neither an offer nor an acceptance should be made
without a willingness to accept the legal consequences.

Invitation to treat.

An invitation to treat is not an offer, it is only an invitation to make an offer. An offer shuld
not be made by a person who is not fuy prepared to take legal consequences of its being
accepted. But a response to an invitation to treat cannot result in a binding contract.

A court decides whether or not one of the parties has made an offer by looking at what it
thinks that both of the parties intended. All the circumstances of the case will be considered
in reaching this decision.

Advertisement can amount either to offers or to invitations to treat. If an advertisement is an

offer then a person who accepts the offer makes a contract with the person who advertised. If
an advertisement is only an invitation to treat then it cannot be accepted in such a way that a
contract is thereby formed.

Offer of a unilateral contract.

In a unilateral, or one-sided, contract, one party, known as the offeror, makes a promise in
exchange for an act (or abstention from acting) by another party, known as the offeree. If the
offeree acts on the offeror's promise, the offeror is legally obligated to fulfill the contract, but
an offeree cannot be forced to act (or not act), because no return promise has been made to
the offeror. After an offeree has performed, only one enforceable promise exists, that of the
A unilateral contract differs from a Bilateral Contract, [2] in which the parties exchange
mutual promises. Bilateral contracts are commonly used in business transactions; a sale of
goods is a type of bilateral contract.

Reward offers are usually unilateral contracts. The offeror (the party offering the reward)
cannot impel anyone to fulfill the reward offer. An offeree can sue for breach of contract,
however, if the offeror does not provide the reward after the offeree has fulfilled the
contract's requirements.

Goods in shops.

Customers who buy goods in shops make contracts to buy those goods. A display of goods in
a shop window does not amount to an offer to sell the goods displayed. The display is ony an
invitation to treat.


Offeree who receive the offer from the offeror menas he or she already accept the offer that
has been made to him or her. Acceptance is simply some indication by the person receiving
the offer that the offer is accepted. The acceptance must be clear and absolute and without
conditions attached. The objective bystander must be able to determine that the offer has been

The acceptance must be made before the offer has expired. Most offers contain a time limit
within which the offer can be accepted. Once the offer has expired, it can not be accepted
unless the person making the offer has renewed it. If there is no time limit by which the offer
must be accepted, then the law requires the offer be left open for acceptance for a reasonable
period of time. What exactly is a reasonable period of time will depend upon the particular
circumstances of each case. The offer must be accepted before it is withdrawn. An offer can
be withdrawn before acceptance unless one of the terms of the offer is that it will remain
open for acceptance until a specified time. On occasion, the circumstances of the dealings
between the parties may be such that the law would impose a term on the parties to keep the
offer open for acceptance for a reasonable period of time.

Acceptance of an offer to enter into a unilateral contract.

Unilateral contracts are usually accepted by conduct. There is no acceptance until the relevant
act has been completely performed. For an example – If Nadia says to Elaiza that she will
give Elaiza RM30 if Elaiza cleaned her room, Elaiza woud not be entitled to the money until
the job is finished, and could not do a half-way job and ask for RM 15.

Acceptance must be unconditional.

An acceptance must accept the precise terms of an offer.

Offer and Acceptance made over the internet.

As there have been no significant decisions by the courts as to when a contract is concluded
over the internet. There are two main ways in which such contract might be formed. First, a
contract could be made by exchange of emails. Second, a customer might visit a website and
buy goods or services described there.

Temination of offers.

As soon as an offer is accepted, a contract is created. However, an offer which has been made
might cease to exist in many ways, and once an offer has ceased to exist, it can no longer be
accepted. The terminations include:

Revocation – It is called off by the offeror.

Refusal – Offeree refuses an offer then, as far as that offeree is concerned, the offer is
terminated and cannot later be accepted.

Lapse of time – Offer will end when the time limit expires.

Intention to create Legal Relations.

The acceptance of an offer will create a contract ony if the offeror and offeree appeared to
intend to create a legally binding agreement. It is therefore said that it is a requirement of a
contract that there must be an intention to create legal relations.

In deciding whether or not there was an intention to create legal relations, the court takes an
objective view of the parties’ intentions. The court does not ask what the parties actually
intended, but looks at what they appeared to the reasonable person to intend.

Agreements made in business or commercial context.

If an agreement is made in a business or a commercial context, there is a presumption that the

parties did intend to make a contract. As this is only presumption, it is not a cast-iron rule but
only a starting point. It will therefore be up to the party who is claiming that there was no
intention to create legal relations to introduce evidence to show that the presumption was not
correct. It might be possible to do this, but if the presumption is not rebutted, then there will
be a contract.

Agreements made in a social or domestic context.

Social agreements are made between friends. Domestic agreements are made between the
members of a family. When either a social or a domestic agreement or made, the courts begin
with the presumption that the parties do not intend to make a contract. A part who claims that
such an agreement is a contract, will need to introduce evidence to show that thisis what both
parties appeared to intend. This may well be possible.


Consideration is usually described as being something which represents either some benefit
to the person makin a promise, [3] or some detriment to the person to whom the promise is
made, [4] or both.

Promisor an Promisee.
In Most contracts, two promises will be exchanged, so each party is both a promisor and a
promisee. In a contract case, the claimant will often be arguing that the defendant has broken
the promise made to the claimant, and therefore the claimant will usually be the promise, and
the defendant will be the promisor.

Consideration need not benefit the promisor.

Consideration need not benefit the promisor – so there can be consideration where the
promisee suffers some detriment at the promisor’s request, but this gives no particular benefit
to the promisor. Another way in which consideration can be given by the promisee without
benefiting the promisor is where contracts are made for the benefit of third party.

Executory Consideration.

Consideration is executory when there is an exchange of promises to perform acts in the

future. For example, A promises to deliver widgets to B at some future date and B promises
to pay A for the widgets when he receives the shipment. If A does not deliver the widgets to
B, B can sue A for breach of contract.

Executed Consideration.

When a promise is made in exchange for an act, when that act is performed, it is executed
consideration. Using the example above, if A timely delivers the widgets to B, A's
consideration becomes executed.

Past Consideration. [5]

Every contract requires an offer, acceptance, and consideration. Consideration is the

exchange of benefit and detriment (e.g., the making of a promise in exchange for an
act). If a party voluntarily acts and then the other party makes a promise, the act is said to
be "past consideration" (since the act was already performed and not made in exchange for
the promise).

For example, A gives B a ride to the market and back home again. When A delivers B to his
house, B promises to give A some gas money. A cannot sue B to enforce B's promise since
the consideration (A's act of giving B a ride) occurred before B's promise. A gave B the
ride without expecting anything in return. (A did not give B a ride in exchange for B giving
A gas money.)


Part B: Explain the factors that may make a contract voidable.


Contracts which impose a continuing liability on aminor are avoidable by the minor. This
means that the contracts are valid, except that the minor has the option to avoid the ontract or
call the contract off. A minor who is to avoid these types of voidable contract must do so
either before reaching the age of 18 or within a reasonable time of having reached the age of
18. The main types of contracts voidable by a minor are contracts of partnership, contracts to
buy shares and contracts to take a lease of property.

There are several factors make cause a contract to be voidable [6] . Contracts are voidable
when the consent of one of the parties to the contract is caused by:

Coercian (under section 15);

Fraud – unless it is fraud by silence under section 17 and the party on whom the fraud was
perpetrated had the means of discovering the truth with ordinary diligence (s 17);

Misrepresentation – unless the party whose consent was caused by the misrepresentationhad
the meansof discovering the truth with ordinary diligence (s 18);

Undue influence – Under section 16;

Both parties to the contract (promisor and promisee) intend that time should be of the essence
of the contract and the contract was not performed in the specified time (s 56);

A party to the contract (promisor/promisee) refuses to perform or has disabled him/herself

from performing his/her promise in its entirety (s 40).