In Payne v Cave (1789) the defendant had made the highest bid at an auction but withdrew his bid prior to the fall of the hammer. The plaintiff sued. It was held that goods at an auction were merely invitations to treat and the defendant’s bid is an offer which he can revoke at any time prior to acceptance.
Acceptance at an auction is indicated by the fall of the auctioneer’s hammer and therefore the defendant was free to withdraw his bid at any time prior to the fall of the auctioneer’s hammer.
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