Lost & Found through Advertisement -
After May lost her dog 3 days ago, she put in newspapers that whoever found her dog and got her back the dog will be awarded HK$5,000. An elderly lady subsequently brought her back the dog and claimed the reward. Nevertheless, May refused to pay. But can she not pay?
In accordance with contract law, to constitute a contract, there must be an offer made by a person to another one and an acceptance of that offer by the person to whom it is made. As such, we would have to see if May's act of placing the advertisement on the newspaper is “an offer” and the subsequent action taken by the elderly lady is an “acceptance of offer”, thereby fufilling the constitution of a contract.
Normally, advertisement, catelog are not offers but invitation to treat, which is an invitation to make an offer and incapable of being accepted. As such, the person advertising is not compelled to sell to every customer because if advertisements are to be offers, it may not make “business sence” because the person making the advertisement may find himself in a situation where he would be contractually obliged to sell more goods than he actually owned due to the lack of supply of goods.
Nevertheless, in certain circumstances, there could be exception and an advertisement can be an offer, a well-known example being the case of Carlill v Carbolic Smoke Ball Company  1 QB 256. The company in the said case had effectively made an offer to the whole world and were contractually obliged to pay to the person who had accepted it by performing the requested acts.
As in May's case, her advertisment is effectively making an offer to the whole world as her advertisment expressly stated her will and is addressed to the general public at large. Though May can claim by way of advertisement though, it is impossible to make an offer to the whole world, according to the ruling of the Carlill v. Carbolic Smoke Ball Co. , it is quite...