STEVENSON v MCLEAN
A request for information is not a counter-offer.
Stevenson v McLean (1879 – 80) LR 5 QBD 346
The defendant, McLean, sent a telegraph to the complainant, Stevenson. In it he offered to sell 3,800 tons of iron “at 40 shillings a ton…up until Monday”. On Monday morning the complainant wired over a telegraph to McLean: “please wire whether you would accept forty for delivery over two months or if not longest limit you would give”. McLean did not respond and at 1:34pm the complainant sent another telegram, accepting the original offer. McLean sold the iron off to a third party in that time, later proceeding to advise Stevenson by telegram. Stevenson brought action on the grounds that McLean was in breach of their agreement. His main argument was that the Monday morning telegram amounted to a counter-offer.
The court in Stevenson Jacques v McLean held Stevenson had not made a counter-offer. Instead, he had just made an inquiry and could not amount to the rejection of the offer.
Is it possible to phrase counteroffers as questions to see if the offeror is willing to accept the new term(s) without nullifying the original offer.
Yasmin telephones Robin and makes an offer to buy the car for £90,000.’ This is rejected by Robin who makes an offer of £95,000. The general principle is a counter-offer nullifies the original offer. In the case of Hyde v Wrench (1840) 3 Beav 334 Hyde tried to accept the first offered price of £1000 whilst bringing action against Wrench for breaching the contract when Wrench sold the farm to the third party. The court held that a contract did not exist. Using this authority we can confirm that Robin by coming back with a price has made counter offer and the proposed price of £90k is nullified.
An hour later, Yasmin leaves an answer phone message with Robin asking what colour the Aston Martin is. The general principle is a request for information is not a counter-offer. The case of Stevenson Jacques v McLean (1879 – 80) LR 5 QBD 346 the court held Stevenson had not made a counter-offer. Instead, he had just made an inquiry and could not amount to the rejection of the offer. Using this case Yasmin asking about the colour is a request for information and not a variation of the contract (i.e. counter offer) that should be answered.