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Contract | Formation

Offer: Invitation to Treat

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Offer: Invitation to Treat

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  • necessary distinguish between offer & invitation to treat
  • invitation to treat: preliminary statement / induce negotiation / no commitment to sell or offer which could be accepted

Distinction between offer and invitation to treat

  • alleged agreement / property sale / via telegram / D's invitation to treat could not accepted by P / D decided not to accept P's offer (Harvey v Facey [1893])
  • written contract signed by parties / required today (Law of Property (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1989)
  • council house sale / D's letter: words 'may be prepared to sell' are fatal (Diplock) / not an offer / P's application was offer / D chose not to accept (Gibson v Manchester City Council [1979])
  • council tenant's right to buy property / D's letter aked P to sign Agreement for Sale & promised to sign in exchange / held binding obligation on D to sell / Denning: .. cannot get out of a contract by saying 'I did not intend to contract' if by his words he has done so... (Storer v Manchester City Council [1974] )


  • items displayed / invitation to treat
  • customer offers to buy at point of sale / vendor accepts (Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain v Boots Cash Chemists [1953])
  • criminal case / knife displayed in window / contrary Restriction of Offensive Weapons Act 1959 / invitation to treat / D acquitted (Fisher v Bell [1967])
bits of law

Offer: Invitation to Treat

[Flash Card 2 of 2]


  • general rule: adverts invitations to treat / not offers
  • D advertised wild birds / sale contrary Protection of Birds Act 1954 / invitation to treat / D acquitted (Partridge v Crittenden [1968])
  • if advert an offer / anyone responding would be accepting / lead to difficulties
  • determined objective intention behind advert / courts consider: words sufficiently clear / advertiser intended to be bound / limited supply issues


  • adverts rewards for information: generally offers not invitations to treat (Williams v Carwardine [1833])
  • adverts of rewards for consumers: can be offers not invitations to treat
  • US case / not binding / 3 fur coats / held: precise words / no stock limit issues / offer (Lefkowitz v Great Minneapolis Surplus Stores (1957))
  • advert reward: £100 if catch flu after using product / not mere puff : £1000 deposited with bank showing our sincerity in the matter / established: offer to public at large possible / can be worded to waive need to communicate acceptance prior to claim (Carlill v Carbolic Smoke Ball Co. [1893] )
  • unilateral contracts: promisor is bound to perform promise / if other party performs required act / contrast bilateral contract: a promise in return for a promise
bits of law
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