Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain v Boots Cash Chemists (1953)

Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain v. Boots Cash Chemists (1953): A point of sale in contract.

Areas of applicable law: Contract law – offer – invitation to treat

The main argument in this case: Are displays and advertisements offers or just invitations to treat?

The fact of the case: Are items in the shop windows or on the shelves offers or just advertisements? The issue was examined in the case of Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain v. Boots Cash Chemists [1953]. Two customers in Boots the chemist had picked up some medicines from the self-service shelves that could only be sold under the supervision of a pharmacist. Though the shop had a pharmacist on duty and the transactions for such medicines were being supervised by him at the till. The issue before the court was whether the display of the medicines was an offer, and by putting them in the wire basket was the acceptance by the customer resulting in the formation of the contract of sale. If this was the case then Boots would be committing an offence by selling pharmacy medicine without the supervision of a pharmacist under the then Pharmacy and Poisons Act 1933.

The Appeal court decided that the contract of sale was not made by putting the controlled drugs in the wire basket, and the display of the medicines on open shelves was rather an advertisement for sale, hence, an invitation to treat. Placing the medicines in the basket constituted an offer that was only accepted when the medicines were brought at the payment till. As a pharmacist was present to supervise the transaction, the chemist had committed no offence.

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