E-Commerce Offer vs Invitation to Treat

Topics: Contract, Offer and acceptance, Contract law Pages: 6 (2301 words) Published: December 4, 2006
Q1) Consider the legal status of Web advert and whether it would amount to an offer in law; Q2) If so, consider whether the filling in of the" buy now" form amounted to an acceptance of the offer; Q3) Outline the consumer buyer's rights under the Distance Selling Regulations as they may apply to this sale.

In this assignment I must conclude whether the advert from Surjit's website constitutes a lawful offer or an Invitation to Treat. I will test this by comparing the two alternatives and assessing which is more applicable to the case study. Offer V Invitation to Treat

To establish the difference between an offer by an organisation or if it is advertising an Invitation to Treat is whether the advert can be likened to that of a shop window or a ticket case. Ticket cases are in reference to ticket sales like those in rail stations and car parks an ideal example of this is Thornton v Shoe Lane Parking Ltd 1971. In this case it was the first time the claimant had been to an automated car park and was issued a ticket, which he had to purchase before the terms and conditions were shown for Thornton's acceptance. The court stated that it is illegal to add terms and conditions once the contract had been accepted and that the ticket was the acceptance of the offer. The general rule for website advertisements is that they are an invitation to treat and not offers. This is due 3 main general factors that sellers must consider when selling goods. Websites can be likened to shop windows, where products need to be contractually controlled. 1, someone under the age of 16 is unable to purchase tobacco products in a shop, as the seller would be breaking the law. The same can be said for websites selling adult material as the seller cannot present that content to underage consumers. This case is best shown by PSGB v. Boots where the court dealt with drugs that should be bought over the counter as they are not fit for just any consumer of any age. 2, a degree of negotiations need to be implemented as to when and where issues like the delivery of products should take place for example. An example of this miscommunication of delivery details and what it can do for the business is expressed in Bowes v Shand 1877. Where the sale of rice was early and the consumer was not held liable for the product. 3, the limitation of stock as shops like the camera store in the case study, the seller can only provide what they have. They may have to rely on their supply chain to complete the order, which could hold them liable for the price differences paid elsewhere for the product. These 3 factors acknowledged I believe it logical to accept that the website advert was an invitation to treat and not an actual offer. The consumers acknowledged the invitation to treat and the "buy now" form amounted to an offer by the consumer. For websites without the seller's confirmation or acceptance, the performance would never be delivered; completing the order page is commonly the offer. Once acceptance from the seller to the consumer is sent they are then bound to the contract. This then would implement acceptance as done by delivery. This is very biased towards companies and unfair on the consumer. Argos in 1999 advertised on their website televisions for L2.99. Customers had placed orders for the televisions at this stipulated price, which Argos was unwilling to then sell at. This issue was settled out of court due to adverse publicity, but Argos now stipulate that the confirmation stage, the final stage of creating a binding contract, for their website business sets out the final details of each order and that they then will email consumers an acknowledgement of ordered products, which is not an order confirmation or order acceptance by the company. Many lawyers that studied the terms stated "there was no obvious reason why Argo's site should be exempt from regulations requiring retailers to sell at the price displayed." (www.bbc.co.uk.) As an offer Surjit could be...

References: Pettit Jo, (2006) Argos blunder means UK customers fail to get cheap TVs, http://www.computing.co.uk/vnunet/news/2108031/argos-blunder-means-uk- customers-fail-cheap-tvs
Unknown Author, (1999) online row over L3 TVs, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/low/business/the_company_file/441426.stm
Todd, Paul. (2005), E-Commerce Law, Cavendish Publishing Ltd, 2 Park Square, Oxon.
Fell, Jon. (2006) The UK 's Distance Selling Regulations, London, http://www.out-law.com/page-430
Salmon, John. (2006) The UK 's Distance Selling Regulations, Glasgow, http://www.out-law.com/page-394
Taylor Martin, (2006), Contract formation on the internet, Lecture Handout
Taylor Martin, (2006), Payment and related issues, Lecture handout
Taylor Martin (2006), Implied terms in contracts for the sale of goods, Lecture handout.
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