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FISHER v BELL

General Principle:


Goods displayed in the a shop window are invitations to treat and not regarded as an offer to sell.


Name:


Fisher v Bell [1961] 1 QB 394


Facts:


Mr. Bell, a shop owner, put a flick pocketknife in the front window of his shop. The Offensive Weapons Act 1959 prohibited the “offer for sale” of these flick knives. The defendant put up a flick-knife in his store window along with a sign that said "Ejector knife - 4s." The ticket was located behind the knife. According to subsection (1) of section 1 of the Limitation of Offensive Weapons Act of 1959, he was found guilty of the crime of committing the offence of providing such knives for sale. The conviction of the defendant was challenged in an appeal.


In this particular case, one of the arguments that was presented was that if the goods that were displayed in a shop window were an offer, the shopkeeper would be required to sell those goods to any person who accepted his offer, even if that person was someone with whom he did not wish to do business.


Ratio:


The prosecution against Mr Bell failed. This, the court held, was because putting goods on display in the window of shop only amounts to an invitation to treat and not an offer to sell the item; rather, it was only an invitation to treat. The judge agreed to reverse the conviction.


Application:


An offer is made by a customer who wishes to buy the item. The shopkeeper has discretion to accept or reject this offer.



Fisher v Bell [1961] 1 QB 394

Analysis


For a contract to exist one party (“the offeror”) needs to make a clear and certain offer and the other party (the offeree) needs to communicate their equally clear and unequivocal acceptance. The general rule is that goods advertised in the shop window are considered an invitation to treat. In Fisher v Bell the court held putting goods on display in the window of a shop only amounts to an invitation to treat and not an offer. Using this case an offer is made by Hugh who wishes to buy the item. The shopkeeper Quince has the discretion to accept or reject his offer.



Fisher v Bell

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