Question from Alia, Is a Facebook Marketplace Post an Offer or Invitation to Treat?
Answer from AI:
When determining whether a communication constitutes an offer or an invitation to treat, it is essential to understand the legal definitions of these terms. An offer is a clear, unequivocal statement of terms upon which the offeror is prepared to be legally bound as soon as it is accepted by the offeree. An invitation to treat, on the other hand, is merely an invitation for others to make offers, with no intention to be bound immediately should such offers be made and accepted.
Case Law on Offer vs. Invitation to Treat
The distinction between an offer and an invitation to treat has been established through various case law. One of the leading cases is Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain v Boots Cash Chemists (Southern) Ltd  1 QB 401, where the court held that the display of goods with price tags in a self-service store was an invitation to treat, not an offer. This meant that customers made offers to purchase items at the checkout, which the store could then accept or reject.
Similarly, in Fisher v Bell  1 QB 394, the display of a flick knife in a shop window was deemed to be an invitation to treat and not an offer for sale, which was significant in the context of legislation prohibiting the sale of such items.
Analysis of the Facebook Marketplace Post
In the scenario provided, the individual has posted a van for sale on Facebook Marketplace with specific details and a price. Drawing parallels from the case law, such as Partridge v Crittenden  2 All ER 421, where an advertisement for the sale of wild birds was held to be an invitation to treat, it can be argued that the Facebook post is also an invitation to treat. The rationale is that it invites potential buyers to make offers for the van, which the seller can then accept or reject.
Implications for the Building Firm Owner
For the building firm owner in Greenwich, this means that the Facebook post does not constitute a legally binding offer. Instead, it is an invitation for potential buyers to express their interest and make offers. The owner is not obliged to sell the van to the first person who agrees to pay £10,000 and can choose to accept or reject any offers received.
When Legal Advice May Be Necessary
While general principles can be applied, each case can have unique factors that might affect the legal interpretation. Therefore, it is advisable for individuals to consult with a legal professional for personalized advice, especially if a dispute arises from such a transaction.
In conclusion, based on the principles established by case law, the Facebook Marketplace post in this scenario would likely be considered an invitation to treat rather than a legally binding offer. This distinction is crucial in understanding the legal obligations of the parties involved in potential transactions on platforms like Facebook Marketplace.
For further reading on the subject, you may refer to resources such as BAILII for case law and academic articles on contract law, which can provide more in-depth analysis and examples of how the courts have interpreted offers and invitations to treat in various contexts.