Sunday, January 25, 2009

Case of Missing Brushes

Case of Missing Brushes

An artist ordered important supplies from a company website. She then received an email from the company which read: “Confirmation notice – your confirmation number is 727.”

What is the legal impact of the confirmation notice?

D.H. Mowat can be assured that general principles are applied to contracts over the internet. For example, "click agreements" in both Canada and US are deemed as valid and legal forms of consent. However on selecting purchases from websites orders or "click to agree" purchases are actually considered "invitation to treat" which is described in our book and also by Lloyd Duhaime, Barrister, Solicitor, Attorney and Lawyer (and Notary Public) from Chitty on Contracts (2004):

"As a general rule, a display of goods at a fixed price in a shop window or on a shelf in a self-service store is an invitation to treat and not an offer. An offer may be made by a prospective buyer. At this stage, the retailer may accept or reject that offer.

Similar principles would seem to apply where a supplier of goods or services indicates their availability on a website: that is, the offer would seem to come from the customer (eg. when he clicks the appropriate button) and it is then open to the supplier to accept or reject that offer."

"Invitation to Treat" (

Confirmation notice may not constitute acceptance of offer and may imply that the website is not legally bound to complete the transaction. In such a circumstance the conclusion of the transaction may come about when the seller sends a formal receipt or notice of transaction which serves as implication of acceptance. Processing receipts on credit cards also act as proof of acceptance. This would explain some of the gaps in electronic data exchange for many internet sales websites relating inventory control, 24 order processing and delivery capabilities. If they are not finely or well in tune the possibility exists that a confirmation of order may be missed and/or a contract acceptance as in debit of the credit card without delivery of product could occur from time to time.

If D.W. Mowat does not receive a further transaction compeltion notice it would be best to send an inquiry or call the company to enquire regarding her order. Many speciality suppliers are running small scale or home businesses and might not have the seamless or fail-safe ordering technology of larger e-businesses.

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