Since contracts are voluntary obligations, the courts apply a number of safeguards to ensure that only those who give informed and genuine consent are legally bound. Prior to 1875, the Common Law courts allowed for escape from an agreement and damages only if a person was incentivized by fraud to enter into an agreement or was subject to physical restraint or lack of legal capacity. However, the courts have been much more generous because they have «resigned» (i.e. the termination of a contract has allowed a person to be the victim of misrepresentation, including innocent, and «undue influence» beyond the influence of physical threats.  In these situations, the victim of misrepresentation or ruthless behaviour has the opportunity to circumvent the contract. If avoided, both parties have the right to return the property they had already passed on, so that no one remains unjustly enriched (although this terminology was not used until the 20th century). During the 20th century, courts and the law expanded the range of circumstances in which a person could claim damages for negligent misrepresentation in addition to fraud.  As the concern for the use of unjust language has increased, there have been calls to recognize a positive duty of the parties, to disclose essential facts as part of a broader duty of «good faith», and some judges have attempted to follow the trade code of the American uniform by establishing a broader doctrine of «unserious» bargaining bargaining power obtained by the unequal bargaining power. However, this development was halted by the House of Lords, so that the problems associated with abusive contractual clauses continued to be resolved through targeted legislation.
The courts also declare contracts null and purpose if they were used for illegal purposes and refuse to enforce the agreement or give recourse if it required a person to rely on his or her illegal action. Attempts to establish strict and rapid rules for interpreting promises in a sensible manner are now deterred. Although a person is bound to the literal meaning of the treaty provisions with a promise, the requirement now is to respect the true meaning and intent of the contract, which may not correspond to the fine print.