This chapter explores the application of the ‘offer and acceptance’ rules in contract formation to new modes of communication. The analysis is structured around the technologies under scrutiny, and the chapter is therefore divided into two main parts, the first dealing with contracts formed by email exchanges, and the second with contracts formed through websites. The discussion suggests that there may be rather less to the legal issues surrounding electronic commerce than has sometimes been suggested. I argue that while the proliferation of electronic commerce raises some interesting questions about the precise mechanics of contract formation by email and through websites, the offer and acceptance model is likely to prove sufficiently flexible to accommodate these new forms of communication without great difficulty. By reasoning from first principles, and by analogy with the rules governing older means of communication, the courts should prove well able to deal with the issues posed by offer and acceptance in the Electronic Age.
Nolan, Donal, Offer and Acceptance in the Electronic Age (December 16, 2010). Andrew Burrows and Edwin Peel (eds), Contract Formation and Parties (OUP 2010) 61-87.