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Consideration must be the full value of the item being exchanged or work being carried out. True or false?




In contract law, consideration does not necessarily have to be the full value of the item being exchanged or the work being carried out. Consideration must be something of value exchanged between the parties, but it does not need to be equal or equivalent in value to the item or service provided. The key requirements for consideration are:

  1. Legally Sufficient: The consideration must be something of legal value, which can include a promise, an act, or forbearance (not doing something that one has a legal right to do).
  2. Bargained-For Exchange: There must be a mutual exchange where each party gives something of value to the other.

Key Points:

  • Adequacy vs. Sufficiency: The courts generally do not assess the adequacy of consideration, meaning they do not compare the value of the consideration exchanged to determine if it is fair or equivalent. Instead, they focus on whether the consideration is legally sufficient.
  • Nominal Consideration: Sometimes, even a very small amount (e.g., £1) can be considered sufficient consideration, provided it is part of a bargained-for exchange.


  1. Sale of Goods:
  • A person sells a car worth £5,000 for £3,000. The £3,000 is sufficient consideration, even though it is less than the car’s market value.
  1. Service Contracts:
  • A person agrees to mow a neighbor’s lawn for £10. The £10 is sufficient consideration for the service, regardless of the actual value of the service.
  1. Nominal Consideration:
  • In some contracts, particularly in legal documents or formal agreements, nominal consideration (such as £1) is often used to signify that an exchange has taken place.


Consideration must be something of value exchanged between the parties, but it does not need to be the full market value of the item or service. The essential requirement is that it is legally sufficient and part of a bargained-for exchange. Thus, the statement “Consideration must be the full value of the item being exchanged or work being carried out” is false.

In practice, you cannot simply pay what you think a meal is worth unless there is a specific agreement or understanding with the restaurant. Here’s why:

Contractual Agreement

  1. Menu Prices:
  • When you dine at a restaurant, you implicitly agree to the prices listed on the menu when you order your meal. This forms a contract between you and the restaurant.
  1. Agreed Consideration:
  • The price listed on the menu is the agreed consideration for the meal. By ordering and consuming the meal, you are agreeing to pay the specified price.

Legal Implications

  1. Breach of Contract:
  • Paying less than the menu price without prior agreement with the restaurant can be considered a breach of contract. The restaurant provided the meal based on the understanding that you would pay the listed price.
  1. Theft or Fraud:
  • Intentionally paying less than the agreed price without the restaurant’s consent could potentially be considered theft or fraud, depending on the circumstances and local laws.

Exceptions and Negotiations

  1. Special Arrangements:
  • Some establishments may allow customers to pay what they think a meal is worth as part of a special promotion or business model. This is common in “pay-what-you-want” restaurants or cafés, but it is explicitly stated as part of their terms.
  1. Customer Complaints:
  • If you are dissatisfied with the meal or the service, it is generally appropriate to discuss this with the restaurant management. They may offer a discount or a refund as a resolution.

Practical Advice

  1. Communication:
  • Always communicate with the restaurant staff if you feel the price is unfair or if there is an issue with the meal. They may be willing to negotiate or offer a solution.
  1. Understanding Terms:
  • Recognize that by dining at a restaurant, you are agreeing to the terms and prices set by the establishment. It’s essential to respect these terms unless there is a mutual agreement to alter them.


In summary, you cannot legally pay what you think a meal is worth unless the restaurant specifically allows for such an arrangement. When you order from a menu, you agree to the listed prices, and paying less without consent can be considered a breach of contract or even theft. Always communicate any concerns with the restaurant staff to find a mutually agreeable solution.


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