Illusory Promise

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A statement that appears to assure a performance and form a contract but, when scrutinized, leaves to the speaker the choice of performance or non-performance, which means that the speaker does not legally bind himself or herself to act.

When the provisions of the purported promise render the performance of the person who makes the promise optional or completely within his or her discretion, pleasure, and control, nothing absolute is promised; and the promise is said to be illusory. For example, a court decided that a promise contained in an agreement between a railroad and an iron producer whereby the railroad promised to purchase as much iron as its board of directors might order was illusory and did not form a contract.