Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain v Boots Cash Chemists [1953] 1 QB 401



The defendant ran a self-service shop in which non-prescription drugs and medicines, many of which were listed in the Poisons List provided in the Pharmacy and Poisons Act 1933, were sold. These items were displayed in open shelves from which they could be selected by the customer, placed in a shopping basket, and taken to the till where they would be paid for. The till was operated by a registered pharmacist. However, the claimant brought proceedings against the defendant for breach of section 18(1) of the Pharmacy and Poisons Act 1933, which requires the supervision of a registered pharmacist for the sale of any item in the Poisons List.


The question was whether the contract of sale was concluded when the customer selected the product from the shelves (in which case the defendant was in breach of the Act due to the lack of supervision at this point) or when the items were paid for (in which case there was no breach due to the presence of the pharmacist at the till).


The Court of Appeal held that the defendant was not in breach of the Act, as the contract was completed on payment under the supervision of the pharmacist. The display of the goods on the shelves were not an offer which was accepted when the customer selected the item; rather, the proper construction was that the customer made an offer to the cashier upon arriving at the till, which was accepted when payment was taken. This analysis was supported by the fact that the customer would have been free to return any of the items to the shelves before a payment had been made.