Gibbons v Proctor
Queen’s Bench Division
Citations:  64 LT 594;  55 JP 616.
The police put up an advertisement. The advert stated that the police would reward anyone who brought the Superintendent information leading to a criminal’s arrest. The claimant, a police officer, asked a co-worker to forward some information about the criminal to the Superintendent. He was not aware of the reward when he did this. However, he found out about the advert before the information reached the Superintendent. He claimed the reward.
- Was the advert an offer or an invitation to treat?
The High Court held in favour of the claimant. The advert was an offer. This was because it was put up without any scope for further negotiations on contract terms.
This Case is Authority For…
While adverts are often invitations to treat, they can be offers. This is more likely where the advert is accepted by performance and does not allow any scope for negotiation – the offeree can either take it or leave it.
This case is sometimes cited as authority for the idea that an offeree need not be aware of an offer to accept it. There are three problems with this.
- There are conflicting reports on what the court stated on this issue;
- The claimant was aware of the offer by the time the acceptance was communicated to the Superintendent;
- It would seem to conflict with the decision in Tinn v Hoffman (1873) 29 LT 271. That case held that ‘cross-offers’ (coincidentally identical offers sent in ignorance of the other) do not form a valid contract.
Modern English law is likely to follow the lead of Australian law. This requires the offeree to know of the offer to accept it: R v Clarke (1927) 40 CLR 227.