A contract is a legal agreement which involves an exchange of goods or services for money.

Written and spoken contracts

Contracts can be written or verbal, but a written contract:

  • can make it easier to prove the specific terms of the agreement
  • is a hard copy so you can prove there was an agreement
  • doesn't rely on someone's memory of the details.

If you're entering into a verbal contract, always ask for details about:

  • what services are being provided
  • the costs - for example, the price for carpet cleaning a standard size room, ask what is 'standard'?

Australian Consumer law protects you against unfair contract terms, but you should always:

  • read contracts carefully before signing
  • keep copies of contracts in a safe place
  • say 'no' if you feel pressured to agree to something you aren’t sure about.

You can agree to make changes to a contract but both parties need to agree on the details.

Before entering into a contract

Don’t sign a contract unless you:

  • have read it
  • understand it
  • agree with it.

If you're unsure about a part of a contract, get some legal advice before signing. Generally, once all parties sign the contract, it's legally binding.

Breaking a contract

A contract breach happens when someone doesn't do what they agreed to do. A court can enforce a contract by ordering that people stick to their original agreement. The court could also order one party to pay compensation to the other.

Making a consumer complaint

Contact Consumer and Business Services (CBS) for consumer advice. CBS can help if you have a problem with a trader but there are some simple steps you can take before lodging a formal complaint.

Solving a problem with a business offers advice and a checklist to guide you through resolving problems with a trader.

Legal assistance

Contact the Legal Services Commission on 1300 366 424 or visit Legal Services Commission of South Australia if you need legal advice about contracts.

Contact CBS

Online: Contact CBS

Phone: 131 882

GPO Box 1719
Adelaide SA 5001

Related information

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Page last updated 29 May 2023

Provided by:
Attorney-General's Department
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