One of the leading cases is that of Fisher v Bell7 where a shopkeeper displayed in a knife with a price ticket in his shop window. He was charged with offering a flick knife for sale in contravention of the Restriction of Offensive Weapons Act 1959 s1. It was however held that the shopkeeper was not guilty because displaying the knife in the shop window amounted merely to an invitation to treat. Accordingly, the shopkeeper had not offered the knife for sale within the 1959 Act. Further, In the leading English case of Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain v Boots Cash Chemists (Southern) Ltd, the Court of Appeal held that where a shopper takes goods from a shelf, at that point he does not accept an offer made by the storekeeper when he displays the goods on offer.
The acts of appropriation and actually approaching the cash counter constitute an offer by the prospective purchaser which is then accepted by the cashier. 8 Alternatively, where a quotation for the price of goods has been given, the courts have also found that it is possible, usually from previous discussions, that the offeror did have the requisite intention and accordingly the quotation amounted to an offer9.
Acceptance In commercial scenarios, it is generally a rule that an offer should be communicated to the other party so that its acceptance may create a binding contract10. The offeree, by accepting an offer, either expressly or impliedly, indicates that the offeree is willing to be bound11 to a contract with the offeror on the terms originally stated. Where the offeree is silent following an offer, this of itself does not prevent the creation of the contract, but there must be some conduct or act to indicate acceptance.
In Brennan v Lockyer12 an offer was posted in whereby the applicant requested certain benefits be made available to him by his trade union on enrolment. The union sent a certificate of enrolment which was originally posted in London and arrived in Dublin, recording the fact of enrolment in London. The question arose whether the contract was completed in London, when the certificate was posted, or in Dublin, when it was communicated to the applicant13.
A distinction was drawn between an acceptance regarding an offer asking for information and that which requests an act be done. When the acceptance is that of a promise this must be validly communicated, but if the offeror requests action, such as posting goods, no further communication is necessary. Generally, where an offer is followed by silence from the offeree, there is no valid acceptance.
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