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<br>Barry v Davies – 2000

Legal Case Summary

Barry v Davies [2000] 1 WLR 1962



Two brand new engine analyser machines owned by Customs and Exise were put up for auction by the defendant auctioneer. Each could be procured from the manufacturer for £14,521 but despite this were listed without a reserve price. The auctioneer failed to obtain bids of £5000 and £3000, upon which the claimant bid £200 for each machine, but the auctioneer refused to accept these bids and withdrew the machines from auction. A few days later the machines were sold for £750 each through an advert in a magazine.

The claimant brought proceedings against the defendant, contending that in an auction without a reserve price the auctioneer was bound to deliver the goods to the highest bidder.


The issue was whether the holding of an auction without a reserve price amounted to a contractually binding offer to sell the property to the highest bidder. 

Decision / Outcome

The Court held that the holding of an auction for sale without reserve is an offer by the auctioneer to sell to the highest bidder, so the defendant was contractually obliged to sell to the claimant. The reasoning behind this was that the auctioneer acted as agent of the owner in the formation of the contract with the highest bidder, and this gave rise to a collateral contract with the auctioneer himself. There was consideration in the form of detriment to the bidder, as his bid could be accepted unless and until it was withdrawn, and benefit to the auctioneer as the price was driven up (and also that attendance at the auction is likely to increase if it is said that there is no reserve).

The claimant was awarded damages reflecting the difference between the value of the machines and the price he had bid.

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Answering problem questions in the University of London LLB programme requires a clear understanding of legal principles, good analytical skills and the ability to apply the law to a given set of facts. Here are some tips to help you answer problem questions effectively:

  1. Read the question carefully: Make sure you understand what the question is asking before you begin writing.
  2. Identify the legal issues: Identify the legal issues raised by the facts and the relevant laws that apply to those issues.
  3. Analyze the facts: Analyze the facts presented in the question, focusing on the details that are relevant to the legal issues.
  4. Apply the law: Apply the relevant laws to the facts, making sure to consider all relevant legal principles and cases.
  5. Structure your answer: Use a clear and well-structured approach, starting with an introduction that outlines the main legal issues, followed by a discussion of the relevant laws and a conclusion that summarizes your analysis and sets out your conclusion.
  6. Use relevant cases and statutes: Cite relevant cases and statutes to support your analysis and help illustrate the legal principles you are discussing.
  7. Be concise: Be concise and to the point, focusing on the key issues and avoiding unnecessary detail.
  8. Proofread: Proofread your answer carefully to make sure it is error-free and clear.
  9. Time management: Make sure you manage your time effectively, leaving enough time to review your answer and make any necessary corrections.

By following these tips, you should be able to answer problem questions in the University of London LLB programme effectively and with confidence. Good luck!

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