Esso Petroleum Ltd v Commissioners of Customs and Excise  1 WLR
Intention to create legal relations and consideration for a contract of sale in the formation of contracts.
Esso, a petrol company, by which customers would receive one free World Cup coin for every four gallons of petrol purchased. The World Cup coins were manufactured coins with the head of a 1970 World Cup English footballer on one side and the word ‘Esso’ on another for a sales promotion. Esso ran advertisements The Customs and Excise Commissioners claimed that the coins were liable to purchase tax as goods “produced in quantity for general sale,” under the Purchase Tax Act 1963, Sch 1, Group 25. Esso claimed that the coins were free gifts and, thus, there was no sale with the intention to create legal relations and produce a legal effect.
The question arose as to whether, the distribution of the coins were goods “for general sale,” and thus sold per a legal obligation by Esso to supply the coins under a contractual relationship with customers.
Firstly, the Court held that there was an intention to create a legal obligation by Esso to supply the coins. The transaction took place in a business setting, and was itself a legal offer beyond a mere ‘puff’ (p 5) that rendered Esso commercial advantages, and was accepted by the customers. Secondly, the Court held that, for a contract of sale, there must be a transfer of the goods for monetary consideration. The Court held that, despite the intention to create a legal obligation, there was no consideration for the transfer of the coins as the coins were transferred under the separate contract for sale of the petrol. Accordingly, the Court held that there was no contract of sale by Esso, there was a contract to produce the coins as goods “for general sale.”
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