Bob parks in the lot of a shopping mall where a sign is posted “by parking here you enter a contract wherein you agree to pay £10 per hour.” Bob parks in the lot and is, according to LSE, bound by the contract having accepted it.

Alice goes to a cafe wherein is posted a menu board on the wall stating some prices which the cafe owner is prone to later orally disavowing. According to LSE the posted prices are merely an invitation to treat and so do not commit their posters to the proposed terms.

How can one of these be an offer and the other a mere ITT?

  • 4
    Please spell out acronyms. Not sure which LAE, LSE, and ITT you mean. Maybe ITT is "invitation to treat".
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Sep 8, 2023 at 20:39
  • 2
    the parking fee sign does not promise a vacant space to park your car. any more than the menu promises availability of blueberry muffins.
    – Jasen
    Commented Sep 9, 2023 at 11:31
  • 5
    If "according to LSE" means "according to another post on this site", then please link that specific post, and attribute it to its actual author. No individual user of this site speaks for the site or community as a whole. Commented Sep 9, 2023 at 16:13
  • 1
    @Seeking Answers I am not a lawyer. just pointing out that both cases are more similar than they may appear initially.
    – Jasen
    Commented Sep 10, 2023 at 13:21

3 Answers 3


How can [parking] be an offer and the [restaurant be an invitation to treat]?

Consider it this way: in the everyday parking context there is rarely if ever an opportunity 'to treat'- i.e. to negotiate the terms of the contract - while people routinely 'treat' in restaurants.

Bob either parks, which signals Bob's acceptance of the 'offer' (the terms on the sign), or Bob goes elsewhere. Usually there is no-one for Bob to 'treat' with!

Alice goes to a restaurant and asks for a table - she might ask for a specific table - she might be seated or turned away. Alice reads a menu and perhaps a specials board, picking items to construct her meal comprising one or more courses with one or more drinks. Alice may ask for substitutions, additions or removals, for steak to be cooked medium-rare, for a child's portion if there are no child portions on the menu, for a child's portion for an adult with little appetite, whether something is gluten-free or contains nuts, for things not on the menu, etc etc. The staff might say they can't supply something for some reason, would Alice like some other thing.

All of that is 'treating' - i.e. negotiating. When Alice and the staff have agreed her order they have formed a contract. The restaurant will supply Alice the items and Alice will pay the prices stated for the items.

Where is parking like that?

Some parking places offer a guaranteed space if you pay them on a monthly or annual basis - you arrange this with staff. But this is not typical.

Alice goes to a cafe wherein is posted a menu board on the wall stating some prices which the cafe owner is prone to later orally disavowing. According to [an answer on Law Stackexchange] the posted prices are merely an invitation to treat and so do not commit their posters to the proposed terms.

The menu does not commit the restaurant to supply any item to Alice.

However, if the restaurant has agreed to supply the item, it may not charge more than the price stated for the item. Doing so is an unfair commercial practice and a prima facie offence per The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. The defence of mistake only goes so far.

The staff should tell Alice before they accept her order that the menu has the wrong price. If they don't tell Alice then they must honour the price on the menu.

It is unlawful to lure customers with low prices and then charge higher prices.

The authorities are unlikely to act on one complaint of £4 being charged for a coffee priced at £2. But if it keeps happening then they might take an interest.

  • 1
    @Seekinganswers The price stated by the menu, specials board, lunchtime deals leaflet and/or staff - if these indicate to Alice the price is £2 and before accepting her order the staff don't tell her the price is £4 instead of £2, they may not then charge Alice £4.
    – Lag
    Commented Sep 12, 2023 at 12:34

The parking sign is probably a contractual offer, which can be accepted by conduct

As answered at this question, the parking sign asserts itself as an offer and even sets out the manner of acceptance: conduct by parking.1

A menu, like other prices in a store, is usually not put forward as an offer that a customer can unilaterally accept in order to bind the proprietor to perform

The owner who has posted prices on a menu may be committed to the posted terms if the menu likewise holds itself out to be an offer. However, I expect it would be rare that a proprietor would make an offer via their menu such that a customer could bind them to produce an item by the customer's acceptance and corresponding promise to pay. A restaurant is occasionally out of stock of an item, which would leave it at risk of breach if the menu were in fact an open offer that could be accepted by the customer.

See Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain v Boots Cash Chemists (Southern) Ltd. [1953] EWCA Civ 6 (05 February 1953). There were several sets of reasons in agreement, but I adopt the crux of the reasoning from Somerville L.J., replacing inline some terminology to apply it to your menu question:

Is it to be regarded as an offer which is completed and both sides bound when [the customer tells the server that they accept item X from the menu], or is it to be regarded as a more organised way of doing what is done already in many types of shops — and a bookseller is perhaps the best example - namely, enabling customers to have free access to what is in the shop to look at the different articles and then, ultimately, having got the ones which they wish to buy, coming up to the assistant and saying "I want this"? The [server] in 999 times out of 1,000 says "That is all right", and the [food is served, the money passes,] and the transaction is completed. I agree entirely with what the Lord Chief Justice says and the reasons he gives for his conclusion that in the case of the ordinary [restaurant menu], although [food is] displayed and it is intended that customers should go and choose what they want, the contract is not completed until, the customer having indicated the [dishes] which he [wants], the [restauranteur] or someone on his behalf accepts that offer. Then the contract is completed.

So typically, until the customer places their order and the restaurant accepts it, there is no contract.

Bait-and-switch pricing, double ticketing, etc. may be prohibited by consumer protection regimes

But regarding your separate concern that a price on the menu may later be disavowed, another answer explains:

Where an invitation to treat also constitutes an advertisement or posted price in the context of consumer protection regimes, it can take on additional significance.

What constitutes an advertisement or posted price or other significant communication in consumer protection regimes is defined by statute and has only coincidental overlap, if any, with the concept of invitation to treat.

For example, in Canada, the Competition Act prohibits a seller from charging the higher price between two or more prices clearly expressed, at the time the product is supplied, on the product, its wrapper, its container, on an in-store or other point-of-purchase display, or advertisement.

1. A commenter suggests "that the manner of acceptance is paying, not parking; and that it "would be like taking your biscuit to the register." However, these are not accurate statements of the law. Where the offeror, as master of the offer, stipulates that acceptance can be by specified conduct, doing that conduct constitutes acceptance of the offer. This is well-supported through citations to case law at the linked duplicate. The situation of the parking lot with a sign is the opposite of bringing a biscuit to the register. Posted prices for items in a store are typically considered invitations to treat, so are not subject to unilateral acceptance by a customer. This is the opposite of the case in a parking lot where a sign is posted saying that parking will constitute acceptance of the contract. Certainly, questions might arise about whether the car owner in fact "parked." If a driver places their vehicle on the lot, turns it off, gets out of their vehicle for a moment, reconsiders, and then gets back in their vehicle and drives away, I would not expect this to be considered an act of "parking" that objectively communicates acceptance of the offer on the sign. On the other hand, leaving the vehicle on the lot and walking away probably will be considered an act of parking that objectively communicates acceptance of the offer on the sign. The Federal Court of Appeal said in Imperial Parking Ltd. v. Canada, 2000 CanLII 15612 (FCA): "the unequivocal conduct which constitutes acceptance of the appellant's offer to provide a parking space occurs when the driver leaves the lot after parking his or her vehicle." But these are simply questions of fact, and the ultimate focus of the inquiry remains whether the actions of the driver were unambiguously an act of "parking" such that they were objectively manifesting acceptance of the offer. It never turns into a question of payment instead of a question of parking.

  • Comments have been moved to chat; please do not continue the discussion here. Before posting a comment below this one, please review the purposes of comments. Comments that do not request clarification or suggest improvements usually belong as an answer, on Law Meta, or in Law Chat. Comments continuing discussion may be removed.
    – Dale M
    Commented Sep 10, 2023 at 21:15

Public parking

Where the parking is provided by the public (usually a local council), the transaction is not a contract. The obligation to pay for this type of parking is prescribed by law.

Private parking

Private parking is contractural.

The parking spot owner has made an offer to the general public that can be accepted by conduct. Providing the offer is clearly and prominently displayed, parking your car in the spot creates a legally binding contract.

The reason it is not an invitation to treat is down to intention - the intention of a person making an offer is that they will be bound by the other party’s acceptance without further involvement from the offerer, the intention of a person making an invitation to treat is that they are open to offers but that they will be the one accepting them. Context, custom, and law determine which is which.

Other examples of offers rather than invitations is selling goods by vending machine or by display next to a collection box as in many sales of charity mints et al.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .