Contract Pays

A system contract change, which is proposed here, can enable contract-pays on eosio chains. This document explains how the PR enables contract-pays and how contract developers may implement it.

The Approach

Early in eosio history, some on the Eosio Developers chat discussed doing the following:

  • Create an account, let's call it provider, with a new authority, let's call it payforit.
  • Create a contract on that account with an action, let's call it acceptcharge. This action scans the transaction and aborts if provider is unwilling to pay for it.
  • Use linkauth to enable provider@payforit to authorize provider::acceptcharge.
  • Delegate plenty of CPU and NET to provider.
  • Publish the private key of provider@payforit.


  • Anyone could use provider@payforit's private key to sign a transaction.
  • The only thing provider@payforit should authorize (see below) is provider::acceptcharge.
  • If provider::acceptcharge is the first action, and that action doesn't abort the transaction, then provider will cover NET and CPU costs.

Attack Vectors:

  • provider@payforit can authorize updateauth, allowing anyone to replace the published private key with their own, denying access to others.
  • updateauth also would allow anyone to create a new subauthority under payforit, with keys of their choosing.
  • provider@payforit can authorize linkauth, allowing anyone to relink provider::acceptcharge to the new subauthority, or to active or owner.
  • provider@payforit can authorize unlinkauth, allowing anyone to disable payforit's access to provider::acceptcharge.
  • provider@payforit can also authorize deleteauth.
  • Since provider@payforit's authorization appears within the transaction, an attacker can set delay to non-0, consuming provider's RAM to store deferred transactions.

Attack Mitigation

A system contract update could block updateauth, linkauth, unlinkauth, and deleteauth. This covers most of the attack vectors.

To prevent RAM consumption attacks, provider must not pay for deferred transactions. The easiest way to prevent this is for provider to have no free RAM. Since provider::acceptcharge may need free RAM for tracking purposes, the contract should be on a different account than the resource provider account.

Example Code

// This version of eosio::get_action doesn't abort when index is out of range.
std::optional<eosio::action> better_get_action(uint32_t type, uint32_t index)
    auto size = eosio::internal_use_do_not_use::get_action(type, index, nullptr, 0);
    if (size < 0)
        return std::nullopt;
    std::vector<char> raw(size);
    auto size2 = eosio::internal_use_do_not_use::get_action(
        type, index,, size);
    eosio::check(size2 == size, "get_action failed");
    return eosio::unpack<eosio::action>(, size);

// Examine the transaction to see if we're ok accepting the CPU and NET charges
void the_contract::acceptcharge()
    // type 0: context-free action
    // type 1: normal action
    for (uint32_t type = 0; type < 2; ++type)
        for (uint32_t index = 0;; ++index)
            auto action = better_get_action(type, index);
            if (!action)
            // Simple rule: only allow actions on this contract
            eosio::check(action->account == get_self(),
                            "This transaction has something I won't pay for");