SA Ad in Paper to Sell Used Goods - Contract Law?

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2 October 2014
I put in an advertisement in the paper for the sale of some old equipment. A lady came and sighted the goods, and then she asked me to hold the goods for a week while she conversed with others and I agreed. Within 5 days I sold the equipment and rang her to tell her so. She now wants reimbursement for her troubles as she had to get a flight over to see me. Do I need to pay her, or is the advert treated as an invitation to treat under Contact Law?

Tim W

LawTap Verified
28 April 2014
It would be a matter for her to show on the balance of probabilities
that a contract had been formed, of which, by selling the goods to somebody else,
you are allegedly in breach.

Even if any contract had been conditional upon her getting consent from her co-offerors,
it would still be for her to show that an agreement had been reached.
The presence of writing is not decisive, but it might be different if you had, say,
taken a deposit/part payment (even a conditional one).

Going only what you have told us so far
(missing facts missing and unstated ifs, buts, and variables not allowed for),
and assuming that there is no agreement, I am not sure how you could be responsible for any costs she (or her connections) might have incurred.


Well-Known Member
11 July 2014
Many facts are missing/not clear making it difficult to approach the problem practically, however the question you should ask is not whether the initial advertisement was this or that, but whether an agreement arose out of your discussions when (and after) she came to inspect the goods. If she can only rely on what was stated verbally, then yes as other forum contributors state it will likely be very difficult for her to show a contract was formed (this is not to say there was not a contract, only that she perhaps cannot show as much on the balance).

Also, if for instance she booked the flight after you had sold the goods to the other person but not yet called her, that opens up other questions to do with reliance and equity.
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