Legal studies question

What is the difference between offer and invitation to treat?

How about advertisement?

1 Answer

  • 1 decade ago
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    "Offer" means a definite proposal to enter into a contract. The offeror intends the offer to form a binding contract if that offer is accepted by the person to whom it is made.

    Offers can be:

    - oral;

    - written;

    - by conduct.

    If the details of the proposal are vague or the person making it only intends to start negotiations, it is an invitation to treat rather than an offer. A reward poster or advertisement is an offer rather than an invitation to treat if the terms are clear (Carlill v. Carbolic Smokeball Co. (1893)). Goods on the shelves of self-service stores, advertisements in newspapers, catalogues and an invitation from an auctioneer for bids have been held not to be offers.

    "Invitation to Treat" means negotiations which lead up to the formation of a contract which are not specific enough or which do not show an intention to be committed so as to be an offer. For practical reasons, the following have been held to be invitations to treat rather than offers:

    advertisements in newspapers offering goods for sale (Partridge v. Crittenden (1968));

    - catalogues with goods for sale;

    - goods for sale in shop windows (Fisher v. Bell (1961));

    - goods for sale on shelves in self-service shops (Pharmaceutical Society of GB v. Boots (1953));

    - an auctioneer asking for bids (British Car Auctions Ltd. v. Wright (1972)).

    - If these were offers, it could create some impossible situations.

    - For examples, a seller would be committed to sell the goods to everyone who replied to the advertisement, whether he had sufficient stocks or not.

    - Or a customer would be obliged to buy all goods that he picked off the shelf in a supermarket and would not be able to change his mind.

    - In auctions, the whole purpose would be lost, as the first bid would form a contract, instead of allowing each bidder to put forward an offer which the auctioneer can accept or reject.

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