PHARMACEUTICAL SOCIETY v BOOTS
Goods displayed on the shelf do not amount to an offer to sell, but are instead an invitation to treat.
Pharmaceutical Society v Boots Cash Chemist  1 QB 401
In Pharmaceutical Society v Boots, Boots decided to change the layout of their shop from one that used counter services to one that used self-service. A pharmacist was at the tills, but was not at the shelves where the items were. Action was brought against Boots for breaching the legislation, as Section 18 of the Poisons Act 1933 states that is an offense to sell specific items unless the sale took place under the ‘supervision of a registered pharmacist’. The courts needed to decide at which point the offer actually occurred. Was it when the customer took the goods from the shelf and put them in the basket, or was it when the goods were taken to the cash desk?
The Court of Appeal held that a contract came to be when the goods were presented at the till. Displaying the goods on the various shelves in their shops was just an invitation to treat. The sale was in fact legal.
The court also commented on the fact that if taking items from the shelves was indeed an offer, the customer would be held to accept the offer and, as a result, would not have been able to change their mind. Displaying the goods on the various shelves in their shops was just an invitation to treat.
Aaron enters the Gucci shop and sees the shoes on display for £89. The general principle is goods displayed in a shop are regarded as invitations to treat and not as offers. In Fisher v. Bell , a shop owner displayed flick knives and was prosecuted for ‘offering for sale’ forbidden items. The court ruled that the flick knives were invitations to treat and not offers. Therefore, using the above authority, we conclude that the display of Gucci shoes is an invitation to treat, and not an offer that Aaron can accept. Aaron takes the shoes marked £89 to the till and is told that they cost £210. Aaron demands the shoes for £89 because they were marked at that price. Goods on shop shelves do not become offers until they are presented at the till. In Pharmaceutical Society of G.B. v. Boots Cash Chemist, an action was brought against Boots for not selling specific items under the “supervision of a registered pharmacist” . The goods were on display; however, there was a registered pharmacist at the till of the store. The Court of Appeal held that the contract was created at the till. Display of the goods on the shelf was an invitation to treat, and it was not until the customer presented the goods at the till that an offer was created. The receipt of money from the cashier was the acceptance. Aaron cannot demand the shoes for £89 because the cashier refuses to make that offer. Because no money has been exchanged, Aaron cannot force the cashier to sell the shoes at this price. However, shop owners are barred from advertising attractive invitations to treat that they refuse to offer to consumers. The Trade Descriptions Act 1968 prohibits shop owners from falsely representing their invitations to treat. Aaron could make a claim against Gucci under the Trade Descriptions Act 1968 because Gucci failed to accurately price their goods on the display shelves.