Maju Jaya Supermarket (MJ Supermarket) advertises in the newspapers that there is a vacancy for the post of manager. The advertisement stated that
those who are interested can come anytime to MJ Supermarket for an interview from 11th April 2014 until 21st April 2014. Ahmad who was very interested with the post came to MJ Supermarket on 20th April 2014 and was informed by the owner that the post was already filled. Ahmad was very angry as he has already tendered his resignation to his former company. On the day that Ahmad came to the MJ Supermarket, he saw Mr Chan, his neighbour, entering the MJ Supermarket and selected some canned food, shampoo, eggs and vegetables. He put all the items into his trolley. However, while he was still looking for other items, Mr Chan received a call from his son asking him to pick him up from the train station. Mr Chan left the items in the trolley and went out from the MJ Supermarket. Advise Ahmad and Mr Chan whether there is any contract between them and the MJ Supermarket. (20 MARKS)
ANSWER to Part A (Ahmad Case)
The definition given under the Section 2(h) of the Contracts Act 1950 is that a contract is an agreement enforceable by law (The Commissioner of Law Revision, 2006). Therefore in the Ahmad’s case, one of the parties (Ahamd or MJ Supermarket) has to make an offer that is duly accepted by the other.
First issue that we need address in this case is to see whether the advertisement stating the interview deadlines contains an offer. If it does, can Ahmad’s willingness to attend the interview be considered as an acceptance of the offer? In case the advertisement is not considered as an offer, or if it is just an invitation to treat, then there is no contract between them. Second issue raised by the question is whether Ahmad’s presence in the MJ Supermarket to attend the interview on time, after his resignation from his previous job, is an offer. In that case, does MJ Supermarket can reject Ahmad’s offer? Based on the limited information given in the Ahmad’s case, the issues were analysed to see whether there is a contract between both parties?
According to Section 2(a) of the Contracts Act 1950, an offer exists “when one person signifies to another his willingness to do or to abstain from doing anything, with a view to obtaining the assent of that other to the act or abstinence, he is said to make a proposal” (Rahman , 2011). As given in the Carlill v. Carbolic Smoke Ball Co Ltd (1893) 1 QB 256 case, a proposal or an offer can also be made to the general public to be accepted by any person who knows about it and willing to perform the requirements of the proposer. On the other hand, an invitation to treat can be defined as giving information or requests to others to make offers.
Application of the Law to the Facts of the Problem
The advertisement by the MJ Supermarket clearly states that those who are interested can come anytime to MJ Supermarket for an interview from 11th April 2014 until 21st April 2014. This raise the question whether the advertisement is intended to bound in contract with the participants who come for the interview. In case of COELHO v. THE PUBLIC SERVICES COMMISSION M.L.J.12, the applicant, a Health Inspector under the Town Board, Tanjong Malim, applied for the post of Assistant Passport Officer in the Federation of Malaya Government Oversea Missions advertised in the Malay Mail dated 19 February 1957. Consequently, the applicant was informed that he was accepted and, after undergoing training, he was posted to the Immigration Office, Kuala Lumpur, where he remained until December 1958 when he was transferred to the Immigration Office at Johor Bahru (Rahman , 2011).
The High Court ruled that the newspaper advertisement was an invitation for qualified persons to apply and the applications were treated as offers. Same can be expressed to the case of Ahmad that the newspaper advertisement by the MJ Supermarket is an invitation to those who are interested to participate in the interview. In the case of Gibson v Manchester CC  1 All ER 972, HL local council write to tenants inviting them to apply to purchase their homes. One such tenant P did apply, and a price was agreed. Following a change of party control, the new council DD refused to go ahead with the sale. The House of Lords said there was no binding contract: P had made an offer which DD had not yet accepted. Phrases in the correspondence such as “may be prepared to sell” and “please complete the enclosed application form” were indicative of an invitation to treat (Thomson Reuters, 2004). Similarly to this case, the advertisement by the MJ supermarket stated that those who are interested “can come” any time to the interview is crucial to consider that the advertisement was a step in the negotiation for a contract.
Considering the court ruling on both Coelho’s case and Gibson’s case, the advertisement made in the newspaper was an “invitation to treat”. However, the presence of Ahmad to participate in the interview is considered as an offer. The MJ Supermarket rejected this offer. Therefore the advice to Ahmad is that there is no contract between himself and the MJ Supermarket.
ANSWER to Part B (Ahmad Case)
On the day that Ahmad came to the MJ Supermarket, he saw Mr Chan, his neighbour, entering the MJ Supermarket and selected some canned food, shampoo, eggs and vegetables. He put all the items into his trolley. However, while he was still looking for other items, Mr Chan received a call from his son asking him to pick him up from the train station. Mr Chan left the items in the trolley and went out from the MJ Supermarket.
The definition given under the Section 2(h) of the Contracts Act 1950 is that a contract is an agreement enforceable by law (The Commissioner of Law Revision, 2006). In the case of Chan, there should be an offer made by Chan and this offer should be accepted by the MJ Supermarket to make a contract.
The issue raised in the question is whether the Mr Chan’s action of taking goods from super market racks and put it into the basket contains an offer or an acceptance of an offer. Does he or MJ Supermarket fulfil the requirements of a contract?
According to Section 2(a) of the Contracts Act 1950, an offer exists “when one person signifies to another his willingness to do or to abstain from doing anything, with a view to obtaining the assent of that other to the act or abstinence, he is said to make a proposal”. An invitation to treat can be defined as giving information or requests to others to make offers. In the Contracts Act 1950, Section 4(1) states that the “communication of a proposal is complete when the proposal comes to the knowledge of the person to whom it is made. To fulfil the pre-conditions of a contract, the proposal should be clearly communicated to the acceptor. Under Section 5(1) of the Contracts Act 1950, “a proposal may be revoked at any time before the communication of its acceptance is complete as against the proposer, but not afterwards.
Application of the Law to the Facts of the Problem
Mr Chan took goods by himself suggests that there is a display of goods in the MJ Supermarket and allows customers to voluntarily pick goods they like and purchase from the counter. “In the case of Fisher v Bell  3 All ER 731, DC it was a statutory offence under the Restriction of Offensive Weapons Act 1959 to offer for sale any of various items, including flick-knives. A Bristol shopkeeper R displayed such a knife in his window, with a ticket reading “Ejector knife – 4s.” [4 shillings = 20p], and was prosecuted for an offence under the Act. The Divisional Court took a literal interpretation of the statute and said he had committed no offence: the display was an invitation to treat, not an offer to sell” (Rahman , 2011). In relation to the Mr Chan’s scenario, this case can be used to justify an argument of changing mind at any point of purchase before a contract is made. Therefore Mr Chan’s decision to leave the goods without buying is acceptable based on Fisher’s case.
“In the case of Pharmaceutical Society v Boots  1 All ER 482, CA certain products that were to be sold only under the supervision of a registered pharmacist were displayed on shelves in a self-service shop. The Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain (who are responsible for enforcing this legislation) brought a prosecution against the shop for allowing customers to buy these products by helping themselves, but the Court of Appeal (upholding Lord Goddard CJ) said they had no case. The customer having selected the goods made an offer to purchase when he took them to the cash desk, and there was a registered pharmacist supervising that point at which the sale took place” (Rahman , 2011). Mr Chan does not take the goods to the sales counter. In the case it is also mentioned that he was still looking for goods to purchase. However, he revoked from the process of making an offer to the sales staff when he got a phone call. As mentioned in the Boots case, the action by Mr Chan indicates that he did not properly complete an offer to purchase. In other words, he was involved in an invitation to treat from the MJ Supermarket.
To complete a contract between Mr Chan and MJ Supermarket, there is should clear communication of an offer and acceptance between both parties. Based on the discussed cases above, the display of goods are considered as an invitation to treat. Mr Chan does not complete an offer to purchase the goods as he quit his process of purchasing in the middle before taking goods to the sales counter. Futhermore, the MJ Supermarket does not have knowledge of a possible offer from Mr Chan.
Courtney from Study Moose
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