You are on page 1of 4

Invitation to treat is the offer to receive an offer.

Under the United Kingdom law, the price tag on an item


displayed in a shop window or advertised through television or radio is a form of invitation to treat.
Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain v Boots Cash Chemists (Southern) Ltd
[1953] EWCA Civ 6 is a famous English contract law decision on the nature of an offer. The Court held
that the display of a product in a store with a price attached is not sufficient to be considered an offer, but
rather is an invitation to treat.

Facts
Boots Cash Chemists had just instituted a new method for its customers to buy certain medicines.
The company would let shoppers pick drugs off the shelves in the chemist and then pay for them
at the till. Before then, all medicines were stored behind a counter and an assistant had to get
what was requested. The Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain objected and argued that under
the Pharmacy and Poisons Act 1933, that was an unlawful practice. Under s 18(1), a pharmacist
needed to supervise at the point where "the sale is effected" when the product was one listed on
the 1933 Act's schedule of poisons. The Society argued that displays of goods were an "offer"
and when a shopper selected and put the drugs into their shopping basket, that was an
"acceptance". Therefore because no pharmacist had supervised the transaction at this point,
Boots was in breach of the Act. Boots argued that the sale was effected only at the till.
Judgment
Both the Queen's Bench Division of the High Court and the Court of Appeal sided with Boots. They held
that the display of goods was not an offer. Rather, by placing the goods into the basket, it was the
customer that made the offer to buy the goods. This offer could be either accepted or rejected by the
pharmacist at the cash desk. The moment of the completion of contract was at the cash desk, in the
presence of the supervising pharmacist. Therefore, there was no violation of the Act.
Somervell LJ said,

Whether that is a right view depends on what are the legal implications of this layout, the
money passes and the transaction is completed. I agree entirely with what the Lord Chief J
difficulties in the way of the suggestion when he pointed out that, if the Plaintiffs are right
cashier and offers to buy what they have so far chosen. On that conclusion the case fails, b

Birkett LJ followed on by saying,

The short point of the matter was, at what point of time did the sale in this particular shop
that package in the basket comes to the exit.

The Lord Chief Justice dealt with the matter in this way, and I would like to adopt these w

"It seems to me therefore, applying common sense to this class of transaction, there is no d
Then he goes on to deal with the illustration of the bookshop and continues:

"Therefore, in my opinion, the mere fact that a customer picks up a bottle of medicine from
case I decide, first that there is no sale effected merely by the purchaser taking up the artic

Fisher v Bell [1961] 1 QB 394 is an English contract law case concerning the
requirements of offer and acceptance in the formation of a contract. The case
established that, where goods are displayed in a shop together with a price label,
such display is treated as an invitation to treat by the seller, and not an offer. The
offer is instead made when the customer presents the item to the cashier together
with payment. Acceptance occurs at the point the cashier takes payment.
Facts

The Defendant displayed a flick knife in the window of his shop next to a ticket bearing the
words "Ejector knife 4s." Under the Restriction of Offensive Weapons Act 1959, section 1(1),
it was illegal to manufacture, sell, hire, or offer for sale or hire, or lend to any other person,
amongst other things, any knife "which has a blade which opens automatically by hand pressure
applied to a button, spring or other device in or attached to the handle of the knife". On 14
December 1959, the Claimant, a chief inspector of police force, brought forward information
against the Defendant alleging the Defendant has contravened section 1(1) by offering the flick
knife for sale. This loophole was closed by Restriction of Offensive Weapons Act 1961 [1] Ban on
Flick Knives: which inserted after the words offers for sale or hire the words or exposes or
has in his possession for the purpose of sale or hire."
Judgment
High Court

At first instance, the Prosecutor submitted that the Defendant has displayed the knife and ticket
in the window with the object of attracting a buyer, and that this constituted an offer of sale
sufficient to create a criminal liability under section 1(1) of the Act. The Defendant ( )submitted
that this was not sufficient to constitute an offer. The judges at first instance found that

displaying the knife was merely an invitation to treat, not an offer, and thus no liability arose.
The Prosecutor appealed the judges' decision.
Court of Appeal

The court upheld that, although the display of a knife in a window might at first appear to "lay
people" to be an offer inviting people to buy it, and that it would be "nonsense to say that [it] was
not offering it for sale", whether an item is offered for the purpose of the statute in question must
be construed in the context of the general law of the country. He stated that the general law of the
country clearly established that merely displaying an item constituted an invitation to treat. He
also read the statute on an exclusive construction (inclusio unius exclusio alterius est), noting
that other legislation prohibiting the sale of weapons referred to "offering or exposing for sale"
(emphasis added). The lack of the words exposing for sale in the Restriction of Offensive
Weapons Act 1959 suggested that only a true offer would be prohibited by the Act. The court
dismissed the appeal. 121

Extra case is generally, advertisements are invitations to treat, so the person advertising is not compelled
to sell to every customer. In Partridge v Crittenden [1968] 1 WLR 1204, it was held that where the
appellant advertised to sell wild birds, was not offering to sell them.

Extra case is Harvela Investments Ltd v Royal Trust of Canada (CI) Ltd:
Facts
The Royal Trust Co. owned shares in a company, and invited bids for them. Harvela bid $2,175,000 and
Sir Leonard Outerbridge bid
"$2,100,000 or $101,000 in excess of any other offer expressed as a fixed monetary amount, whichever
is higher."
The Royal Trust accepted Sir Leonard's bid as being $2,276,000. Harvela sued for breach of contract,
saying a referential bid was invalid. The Court of Appeal held in favor of The Royal Trust, that expressing
a fixed amount made the referential bid valid.

Judgment
The House of Lords unanimously reversed the Court of Appeal's decision. Lord Templeman gave a lucid
judgment, pointing especially to South Hetton Coal Co. v. Haswell, Shotton and Easington Coal and
Coke Co. [1898] 1 Ch. 465 where Sir Nathaniel Lindley MR had dealt with referential bids already (2334).

In the South Hetton case there was no fixed bid but only a referential bid by one bidder of
vendors in that case undertook to accept "the highest net money tender," whereas in the pr

"The very essence of sealed competitive bidding is the submission of independent, self-co
which it is submitted."

Lord Diplock died three months after giving his judgment (11 July 1985), aged 78. He put his opinion in
the following way.

The answer to the construction question itself, however, appears to me to present no diffic

Lord Bridge said that the referential bid can only be ascertained in amount after the deadline has fallen for
all bids to come in.