Harvey v Facey

Harvey v Facey (1893): A Case Summary

Case name & citation: Harvey v Facey (1893) AC 552

Year of the case: 1893

Jurisdiction: The Privy Council (Jamaica)

Area of law: Offer and invitation to treat

What is the case about?

This is a famous contract law case that discusses that a mere statement of information is not necessarily an offer.

Facts of the case (Harvey v Facey)          

In the case of Harvey v Facey, the plaintiffs and the defendants communicated by telegram. Harvey was interested in purchasing a Jamaican property owned by Facey. The following is a summary of the relevant conversations:

1. The plaintiffs telegraphed to the defendants, asking: “Will you sell us Bumper Hall Pen? Telegraph lowest cash price.”

2. The defendants replied by telegram, stating: “Lowest price for Pen, £900.”

3. The plaintiffs then sent a telegram stating: “We agree to buy Pen for £900 asked by you.”

It’s worth noting that these telegrams constituted the entire communication between the parties in this case. The defendants did not reply to the plaintiffs’ final telegram and therefore did not accept the plaintiffs’ offer to buy the land for £900. As a result, on the face of it, no contract was formed between the parties.

In contrast, the plaintiffs argued that the exchange of telegrams between the parties constituted an offer and they had given their acceptance to it, and therefore there was a binding contract in place. Hence, they sued the defendants for breach of contract.

Issue raised in the case

Was the telegram advising of the £900 lowest price an offer that the plaintiffs accepted?

Was there a binding contract?

Judgment of the Court in “Harvey v Facey”

The Court decided in favor of the defendants.

In the instant case of Harvey v Facey, the Court ruled that the defendants’ statement of the lowest price at which they would sell the plot of land (Bumper Hall Pen) did not constitute an offer. This is because an offer must be an expression of willingness to enter into a contract, and the defendants’ statement did not indicate any such willingness. In addition, the plaintiffs’ subsequent telegram, in which they agreed to buy the land for the stated price, was an offer to buy, but since it was not accepted by the defendants, no contract was formed.

The reasoning behind the decision

As stated above, the defendants’ statement indicating the lowest price did not include any terms other than the price. It did not indicate a willingness to enter into a contract or specify any other terms or conditions that would apply to the sale. Therefore, the defendants had not made a valid offer, but rather an invitation to treat. An invitation to treat is a preliminary communication, made by one party (the offeror), inviting the other party (the offeree) to make an offer. It does not itself constitute an offer, but rather invites the offeree to make an offer in response. Here, in response to the price statement, when the plaintiffs made an offer to buy the land at the said price, the defendants did not accept it. Hence, no contract came into place.


The final telegram by the plaintiffs did not amount to an acceptance since there was no offer (from the defendants) in the first place.

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