Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain v Boots Cash Chemists Case Summary (1953)

pharmaceutical society v boots cash chemists

Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain v Boots Cash Chemists case summary is one of the famous cases under contract law. The court clarified the difference between offer and invitation to offer. The offeror makes an offer to do something or abstains from doing something seeking assent of the offeree. An invitation to offer is an act of inviting other parties to make an offer to form a contract.


Boots Cash Chemists Ltd (defendants) introduced a new system of self-service in their medical store. In this system, the chemists can now pick medicines from shelves and make payments for the same at one of the cashier desks of the store. Before introducing this system, they kept the medicines behind a counter and gave the customers the required medicine. The Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain objected to the new system of self-service. They objected, claiming that S.18 (1) of the Pharmacy and Poisons Act mandated pharmacists while on the sale of the medicine. The plaintiff alleged that the displaying of goods was an offer and a customer, upon choosing a drug, had accepted this offer. As there is a lack of supervision by the chemist, the society said it violated S.18 (1) of the act and they brought the matter to the court. The trial court’s decision was in favor of the defendant, so the society appealed to the higher court.


  1. Is there acceptance of an offer at any stage in a self-service store?
  2. Is the purchase of the drug compulsory when placed in their basket?
  3. Is the chemist liable for drugs without the pharmacist’s supervision?


Plaintiff’s contention

The plaintiff argued that S 18 (1) of the act mandates the supervision of a poison list of the customer. When the customer picks up the displayed drug, the acceptance is made, and the sale is executed, and there is no pharmacist to supervise the same. Therefore, the defendant is liable for the same.

Defendant’s contention

The defendant argued that only when the customer pays at the cashier’s desk the sale is executed, and a registered pharmacist is present to supervise the same.


The judges present to hear this case were Justice Somervell, Justice Birkett, and Justice Romer. All three judges unanimously rejected the society’s appeal and upheld the decision of the trial Court.

Judges gave the reasons:

  • The goods displayed in the medical store were an invitation to offer, and not an offer. The customers make the offer when they take the medicine to the cashier.
  • The cashier has to make the acceptance and is under the authority of the shopkeeper. Hence the contract is not made until the cashier accepts to sell.


The court dismissed the Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain’s appeal and the court held that a registered pharmacist is present at the Boots Cash Chemists’ store when the contract of sale is made under the Pharmacist and Poisons Act and is not violative of S. 18 (1) of Pharmacist and poisons act, 1933.


This case is a landmark case under Contract law. It upholds the concept of invitation to offer. Judges present to hear this case distinguished offer and an invitation to offer. The clarification on this concept was very much needed. It contributed to the development of contract law and common law systems. This case also signified the concepts relevant in the modern era of window shopping and mega-marts as most of the stores display goods on shelves with price tags and even discount offers. Therefore, clarity on the concept invitation to offer is necessary to avert disputes.

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