Postal Acceptance Rule Essay Typer

Hi everyone. I'm studying the Graduate Diploma in Law and need to answer this question regarding contract law. I have some thoughts, and would like if people could check over to see if I am on the right lines. Thanks.

The question:

A offers B a contract for the latter to repair the former's goods. This offer is done in letter form, and is written on 1 April. It states that B should accept/reject by letter also. However, A has made a mistake in the address, which results in a delay to the letter, and it only gets there on the 6 April.

On 4 April, C hears about A's offer and decide they want to accept. After telephone negotiations, A offers C the contract to repair the goods and C accepts.

On 6 April, A sends a fax to B telling them that the 1 April offer has been withdrawn. The fax is received at B's office at 9:30 am on a weekday, but no-one at B's office actually reads it until 4:30 that afternoon. On the morning of the 6 April, B gets the original letter of 1 April, and they send their acceptance of the offer at 11:00am.

My answer (paraphrased):

C will get the contract. A has made a valid offer to both B and C, but B had not accepted the offer in time. A has revoked their offer to B under the general rule in Offord v Davies, and B's acceptance came after this revocation, so they could not accept. The rule that revocation must be communicated (which would mean that B would get the contract) does not apply because it was revoked by fax: it was sent during business hours which means that the offer was revoked at 9:30am on 6 April, rather than at 4:30pm (see The Brimnes).

Thanks for any help you can give.

I'm in a similar boat to you in the sense that I'm a newcomer to the law, but nevertheless, I shall give this question a shot considering that I've since sacrificed my Sunday to the perils of early contract law. With that in mind, I wouldn't regard this answer as definitive, although I do think my reasoning is quite similar to yours. These answers are straight from my own notes, and I've added a few more cases for my own benefit.



A offers B a contract for the latter to repair the former's goods. This offer is done in letter form, and is written on 1 April. It states that B should accept/reject by letter also. However, A has made a mistake in the address, which results in a delay to the letter, and it only gets there on the 6 April.

It's best to establish that, first of all, this is indeed a formal offer from A to B, and not an invitation to treat. Gibson v Manchester City Council shows that ambiguity in language may fetter a firm offer. However, this obviously isn't the case - A is making an unequivocal offer to B.

On 4 April, C hears about A's offer and decide they want to accept. After telephone negotiations, A offers C the contract to repair the goods and C accepts.

Here we have the formal acceptance of an offer from A to C. It might be worth pointing out Entores v Miles Far East Corp, where it was held that should a telephone line go dead during the act of acceptance, the onus is on the offeree to call back the offeror and confirm the acceptance of the contract. Otherwise, the contract remains unfinished. Again, this isn't the case here - a legally binding contract between A and C has been made.

On 6 April, A sends a fax to B telling them that the 1 April offer has been withdrawn. The fax is received at B's office at 9:30 am on a weekday, but no-one at B's office actually reads it until 4:30 that afternoon. On the morning of the 6 April, B gets the original letter of 1 April, and they send their acceptance of the offer at 11:00am.

The Brimnes can be directly applied to the above scenario - revocation sent by instantaneous communications during ordinary working hours brings formal withdrawal from the contract into effect as soon as it arrives in the office. Furthermore, it doesn't even need to be read by anyone working there. Presumably, A's revocation by fax arrives in the office before the original letter of offer does, meaning that the original offer to B is discarded, C retains the contract, and B has no chance at claiming damages under contract law.

The next question, and this is where I am personally struggling at the moment, is how can the application of the law to this scenario be expanded to involve current issues in the law? It seems to me that there is conflict within the use of the postal rule - why does it apply to the postal service, but not instantaneous communications? Further, why does the acceptance of an offer not have to be received by the offeror, but the revocation of an offer has to be seen by the offeree when using the mail?

Again, I'm not even sure if these are issues that should actually be explored within the above question. What I do know is that it's too late to try and answer them in detail. I hope my small answer helps.

Is Jennifer’s revocation effective?┬áIn contract law, revocation can be described as the termination of an offer. Revocation occurred when an offer is nullified by the offeror which he/she has made an offer earlier to the offeree. The general rule of revocation was established in Payne v Cave’s case and it has stated that an offer can be revoked at any time before acceptance takes place.

However, under the principle which was determined by Byrne v Van Tienhoven, the revocation must be communicated effectively directly or indirectly to the offeree before acceptance.

In this case, it has shown that an offer was made by Jennifer to Nicolas for all her 12 pieces of collection of sculptures as she mentioned ‘she would sell the goods to him for RM28,000 and that she’d keep her offer open for five days, until the close of business on 19th of October.’

This case is relatively similar to Byrne v Van Tienhoven. In Byrne v Van Tienhoven’s case, it was held that the contract was made on the 11th of October 1880 when plaintiff sent a telegram and thus, the defendant’s revocation was too late and it was not effective until it was on 20th of October 1880. Therefore, judgment was given for the plaintiffs. In this case, on 17th of October Nicolas wrote a letter unconditionally agreeing to buy the sculptures for RM 28,000 which shown his acceptance, according to the postal rule. Thus, a contract between Jennifer and Nicolas were formed on the 17th of October.

Nevertheless, it shows that the revocation of Jennifer was not effective until it was received on 21st of October when Nicolas read the e-mail and this is supported by Section 21 (b) Electronic Commerce Act 1950. The revocation of Jennifer was too late as the contract was made when Nicolas sent the letter on the 17th October.

Under Section 21 (b) of Electronic Commerce Act 2006, if the addressee has not designated an information system for purposes of receiving electronic messages (including revocations), the communication of the electronic message (including acceptance and revocation) is only valid when it comes to the knowledge of the addressee. It comes to the knowledge of the offeror when he/she opens the e-mail.

Thus, Jennifer’s revocation is not valid as a result of Nicolas hadn’t given Jennifer his e-mail address but, Jennifer found the address through some ‘internet searching.’ Nevertheless, she sent Nicolas an e-mail late on 17th of October indicating that the sculptures were no longer available for purchase. As Section 21 (b) of Electronic Commerce Act 2006 stated, when Nicolas arrived home and read the e-mail telling him that Jennifer had changed her mind about selling the sculptures on 21st of October, the communication of the electronic message is only valid when he opens the e-mail. Therefore, Jennifer’s revocation is not effective.

Moreover, Section 5(2) of Contract Act 1950 has stated that acceptance may be revoked at any time before the communication of the acceptance is complete as against the acceptor, but not afterwards. Since communication of the acceptance is complete between Jennifer and Nicolas. Thus, acceptance may not be revoked.

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