Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain v Boots Cash Chemists (Southern) Ltd  2 WLR427 is a well-known English contract law judgment on the nature of an offer. The Court held that the exhibition of a product in a store with a price attached is not adequate to be considered an offer, although relatively is an invitation to treat. Boots Cash Chemists had presently employed a new technique for its customers to purchase certain medicines.
They would let shoppers single out drugs off the shelves in the chemist, and afterward recompense for them at the till, rather than involve all medicines to be behind a counter and for an associate to have to get what was asked for. The Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain objected, and disputed that under the Pharmacy and Poisons Act 1933, this was an illegal performance. Under s 18(1), a pharmacist required to administer at the point where “the sale is effected”, when the product was one scheduled on the 1933 Act’s program of poisons.
The Society disputed that exhibitions of goods were an “offer” and when a purchaser preferred and placed the drugs into their shopping basket this was an “acceptance”. Therefore since no pharmacist had overseen the operation at this summit, Boots was in violation of the Act. Boots disagreed that the auction was still merely exaggerated at the till. The date in the case reference is enclosed within square brackets, that is,  2 because as a primary source in law reports and citation of cases, when a case can be located using the date alone, that date is enclosed in square brackets.
The year in square brackets refers to the year of the decision, the square brackets indicate that this year also serves as a volume number, and thus is required to locate the report. The 2 indicates the case is found in volume 2 of the 1953 reports. Thus, in this particular case, the case could be located by using the date alone. Otherwise, if the case can be located using other methods like using the volume number, the date can be enclosed with round brackets. It is also important to note that any citations prior to 1953 will be for the case at first instance, which is not a citation of the case under discussion. This case appears to have been reported in other series of reports.
 WL 13966(CA); 117 J. P. 132;  1 Q. B. 401,  1 All E. R. 482 ;  1 All E. R. 482;  2 W. L. R. 427; (1953) 97 S. J. 149;  1 Q. B. 401;  EWCA Civ 6. The court’s decision that appears in the report cited is Court of Appeal. The case was heard and decided on 5 Feb 1953. There is no indication that judgment was reserved, and the lack of any date other than the sitting date, or an indication of reservation such as cur ad vult would indicate that judgment was not reserved.
The judges in the case Somervell, Birkett and Romer LJJ; seniority; three-uneven number needed for appeal; convention that one judge does not sit alone in judgment upon a brother judge. The counsel for the parties in this case Lord Goddard C. J. – heard matter at first instance, therefore his judgment does not form part of this case, but may be reported elsewhere. Somervell LJ is the most senior judge sitting on the appeal and each party in the case solicitors and barristers was represented by Appellant: H. V. Lloyd-Jones Q. C. and T. Dewar instructed by A. C. Castle; Respondent: G. G. Baker Q. C. and G. D. Everington instructed by Masons.
The Pharmacy and Poisons Act, 1933 requires the auction of poisons to be effected by or under the management of a recognized or registered pharmacist. Boots ran a retail pharmacy, which sold poisons limited under the Act, which they had restructured into a self service pharmacy. A registered pharmacist managed each operation relating to a poison or medicine at the summit of transaction. Customers nevertheless were liberated to opt for such products from the shelves of the pharmacy and position them in their shopping baskets prior to approaching the money desk to reimburse.
Two bottles of drugs were acquired from Boots in this approach. The head note suggests that, “The question for the opinion of the court was whether the sales instanced on April 13, 1951, were affected by or under the supervision of a registered pharmacist, in accordance with the provisions of section 18(1)(a)(iii) of the Pharmacy and Poisons Act, 1933. ” However the issue of law with which the court is concerned is better stated by Birkett LJ at 407: “the short point of the case is, at what point of time did the sale in this particular shop in Edgeware take place?
” Or by Somervell LJ at 405: “what are the legal implications of this [self service] layout – the invitation to the customer. Is a contract to be regarded as being completed when the article is put into the receptacle,. [or] having got the ones which they wish to buy, to come up to the assistant . the money passes and the transaction is completed. ” In other words, is the display of goods on a shelf in a shop an offer or an invitation to treat? Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain v Boots  1 QB 401.
Facts Boots operated as a regular pharmacy, with items on shelves and pharmaceuticals requiring a pharmacist to supervise the sale. The Pharmaceutical Society alleged that Boots infringed the Pharmacy and Poisons Act 1933 requiring the sale of certain drugs to be supervised by a registered pharmacist. The claim failed at first instance and the Society appealed. Held (Somervell LJ) The Society had argued that a drug sale was completed when the customer took an item from the shelf and put it in their cart/basket. The result of such analysis would be that that when the customer came to the sales desk the pharmacist would not be able to say that the drug could not be sold to that customer.
After assessing the legal implications of such an analysis Somervell LJ noted that in relation to “an ordinary shop, although goods are displayed and it is intended that customers should go and choose what they want, the contract is not completed until, the customer having indicated the articles which he needs, the shopkeeper, or someone on his behalf, accepts that offer. Then the contract is completed. ” The same rule should apply in relation to this case. If the Society’s argument was accepted then customers, once placing an item in their basket, would have no right to substitute a different article which she/he preferred.
This would be commercially inconvenient. As a consequence the Society’s case failed because, at the appropriate time, the sale was supervised as required by legislation. Case Facts Boots cash chemists had implemented a new system of selling particular medicines. The customer could get the required medicine of the shelf and pay for the goods at the till. Previously all medicine where bought over the counter. The Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain argued that this method of selling specific medicines contravened the [Pharmacy and
Poisons Act 1933]. The Pharmaceutical Society argued that displaying the medicine on the shelf amounted to an ‘offer’ and that the customer placing the medicine in their basket amounted to an ‘acceptance’. The Pharmaceutical Society believed that this practice was unlawful and breached Section 18(1) of the Pharmacy and Poisons Act that stated that a pharmacist needed to supervise at the point where “the sale is effected” of any medicines which were described in the 1933 act as a poison.
Boots argued that the ‘offer’ and ‘acceptance’ occurred at the till; offer- presenting the goods; acceptance – processing and accepting payemt, where a pharmacist was present and supervising sales. It was held by the Queens Bench Division of the High Court and the Court of Appeal that a display of goods is an offer to treat. That the customer offers to buy the goods at a certain price and the pharmacist for Boots will either accept or reject this offer. Although this is an English case, it remains unclear as to whether the approach made by the English courts would apply in Scottish Courts. It would seem reasonable however that this approach was followed and would be used if a similar case arose within Scottish Jurisdiction.
Furthermore, in the opinion of MacQueen and Thomson, authors of Contract Law in Scotland they state in the age of electronic commerce, similar questions arise in relation to Internet web pages which indicate the availability of goods for sale and enable customers to order direct from a supplier by an electronically transmitted communication.  As suppliers are inviting prospective buyers to buy their good, the users are simply making an offer and this leaves out the ability for the suppliers to decline the offer of delivering their goods and services.