Contract Law: Going, going, gone?

In this post on the Birmingham Law School Research blog Dr Catherine Mitchell discusses the modern dynamics of English contract law

Old Joe - the University Clock Tower seen from the Green Heart

We may be living in the age of statute and regulation, but it is clear that we also exist in an era of contracts. Contracts proliferate, framing much of our economic activity and social experience whether significant or mundane. It is impossible to make an online purchase at without agreeing to Amazon’s conditions of sale, or park your car in a public car park without notionally consenting to the imposition of an additional charge for overstaying, as well as a plethora of other obligations. Resources that were once a matter of state gift (tuition fees for a university education) are now provided by means of contract (the student loan agreement). The English common law of contract provides the invisible framework that underpins and enables these prosaic instances of contracting. However, the role of general contract law in policing this contractual activity has reduced almost to vanishing point.