What is a Contract Really?

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Just recently I had an interesting experience. A company had called a friend of mine to get him to do some internet marketing. They had discussed it and my friend was sold on the idea that it would bring him business and thus would be a great investment. He waited for the paperwork.

To his surprise the paperwork never arrived. Instead he was sent his first bill and told the marketing had already started. He thought he should go along with it and after four months of paying decided as he was not getting work, he should cancel. He was told he was not allowed to cancel, and that was in their contract.

After nudging by me he dug his heals in. Finally the marketeers, a large company, had said that because he had a contract he must pay, and they were seeming to threaten slightly. I asked my friend to ask where was the contract. He was told it was the voice recording of when he was interviewed and that was his agreement.

I pushed my friend to ask for a copy of this recording and any authorization this company had, which showed he had authorised “the voice recording for training purposes” to be his contract. Of course nothing arrived, except a recent copy of their Terms and Conditions of Contract. But this was about four months too late.

To have a contract, that contract really must be fair to both sides and both parties should be equal in the contract. It seems incredulous that a large company could maintain that a person has a contract when he never knew he had one, and that a recording of his casual interview for training purposes was his contract, when he never knew that either.

An actual contract by the way is none of the above. A contract is the agreement between two people or two parties. One party will have the expectation of something, and be willing to give money in exchange for that expectation being fulfilled. The other party will have the expectation of making money in return for their exchange. That is what happened in this case. My friend had the expectation that he would make some money from their advertisements. In exchange for that expectation being met, he would pay the company for doing the marketing.

As the company doing the marketing never sent him a written version of this contact, and never took the responsibility to ensure he had or was agreeing to what they thought, then his expectation is constituting the contract.

You see, it is not the paper that is the contract, or the voice recording. It is the expectation that both parties have. This then should be written down; the expectation. The company concerned is saying that they never made that agreement to give him a product of sales. They say they only have to get impressions out on Facebook, regardless how many clicks and leads he might get. But that is not what he thought from speaking with them. Law has it that it is the expectation of the two parties that is the contract. But this was never truly agreed to. In this case the company concerned somehow just concentrated on their own sales and had not worried about what their client wanted. They had not concerned themselves if he was really going to get a return for his payment. Well now they are experiencing something else. They have no written agreement to express their expectation.

Law is becoming more international. The legal systems of Earth are evolving into a consistently fair way of dealing with each other. The purpose of a contract is to establish what the expectations are of the two parties. Each party should exercise their right to make sure the other party does know what they expect. That is important. A really good party would make sure the other party really does know what they are expecting. And if both parties do that, then what is written is totally secondary to what is performed, and what is agreed in a handshake becomes the rule. And that is not a bad deal.

Nick Broadhurst is the author of science fiction books, children’s picture books, and comics. He also writes articles on contemporary philosophy. For a living he is an architect, building contractor, building inspector, and worked in many countries.


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