Fisher v Bell [1961] QB 394

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Facts

  • It was illegal to offer a flick knife for sale in England
  • A shopkeeper displayed a flick knife in his shop window, with a pricetag behind it
  • The shopkeeper was charged with offering an offensive weapon for sale

Issue

  • Was the display of the knife an offer, or was it an invitation to treat?

Held

  • Although a lay person may have viewed the knife as being offered for sale, it was not a legal offer under contract law
  • It was instead an invitation to treat – i.e. the display of the knife was to tempt possible buyers to make an offer, it was not an offer in itself. It could not automatically be accepted and a contract created.
  • Therefore the shop keeper was not in brach of the Act.
  • In deciding this case, Lord Parker employed a literal approach to interpretation.

Significance

  • This case is illustrative of the difference between an offer and an invitation to treat. It shows, in principle, goods displayed in a shop window are usually not offers.

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