Harris v Nickerson (1873)

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Areas of applicable law: Contract law – Offer – Invitation to treat

Main arguments in this case: Advertisement is only invitation to treat

The fact of the case: The defendant was an auctioneer who put up a catalogue of office furniture, brewing machinery, and other items in the London newspapers stating that the goods would be sold in an auction. The auction was to take place in Bury St. Edmunds and was going to last for three days.

The claimant made a journey to auction site to bid for the items but on the third day the auction lot was removed from auction. The claimant brought an action against the defendant claiming for lost time and expenditure. In his claim he argued that the advertisement was a contract between the auctioneer and the buyers and the defendant should have followed and sold the auction lot as advertised.

The judge at first trial found in favour of the claimant however on appeal the court held in favour of the defendant. The High Court unanimously held that the advertisement was an invitation to treat and did not constitute an offer.



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