There is the need to revisit the circumstances under which a buyer may reject goods where a wrong quantity was delivered by the seller. It is conceded that the delivery of wrong quantity ordinarily amounts to a breach of the contract of sale. Nevertheless, it is contended that it is not all cases of delivery of wrong quantity that should occasion the rejection of the goods by the buyer. We shall examine the issues in this article and make some recommendations for reform based on our review.
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For the purposes of our discussion, delivery of wrong quantity takes two forms. The first involves the delivery of a smaller quantity of goods than the quantity contracted. The second involves the delivery of a quantity greater than the quantity contracted. In both cases, the quantity of goods delivered to the buyer by the seller is different from the quantity the buyer was expecting based on the contract he entered into with the seller.
Section 30 of the Sale of Goods Act 1893 provides for delivery of wrong quantity by the seller. By virtue of section 30(1), where a seller delivers to the buyer a quantity of goods less than he contracted to sell, the buyer may reject the goods. Also, by section 30(2), a buyer may reject the whole of the goods if the quantity the seller delivered to him is more than the quantity contracted.
However, based on numerous judicial decisions, these rights of rejection by the buyer are not absolute. The rights are subject to some restrictions, expressed in the Latin maxim: de minimis non curat lex (which means the law pays no attention to trifles). Thus, where the shortfall in quantity or the excess delivered is microscopic, trivial or not capable of influencing the buyer’s mind, the courts will not uphold rejection by the buyer.
In other jurisdictions, a distinction has been made between a consumer buyer and a non-consumer buyer in amending this provision. Thus, in the United Kingdom, for example, a new section 30(2A) and (2B) was enacted in the Sale of Goods Act 1979 to restrict non-consumers’ rights of rejection on delivery of a wrong quantity.
By virtue of section 30(2A) of the Sale of Goods Act 1979 of the United Kingdom, a buyer who does not deal as consumer may not, where the seller delivers a quantity of goods less than he contracted to sell, reject the goods under section 30(1), or where the seller delivers a quantity of goods larger than he contracted to sell, reject the whole under section 30(2), if the shortfall or excess, as the case may be, is so slight that it would be unreasonable for him to do so. By virtue of section 30(2B), it is for the seller to show that a shortfall or excess fell within subsection (2A).
This position which has been followed in some other jurisdictions does substantial justice in the matter. Where delivery of wrong quantity is of no material consequence, it should not be the basis for frustrating a genuine commercial transaction.
In view of the reasonableness of the modification introduced to section 30 in other jurisdictions including the United Kingdom, it may be considered appropriate for such modification to be taken into account in the reform of the Sale of Goods Act. This position is taken because it is fair, reasonable and occasions substantial justice to all the parties concerned.
Next week, we shall discuss another relevant issue in relation to the reform of the Sale of Goods Act in Nigeria. But should you have any comments on the suggested amendment to section 30 above, kindly share them using the comments area of this post below. If you are already a registered user, you will be required to log in to comment on this post; otherwise, you will have to register before posting your comment. Registration is simple and FREE.