The right to reject for short
delivery and termination
School of Law, University of Leicester, Leicester, UK
Purpose – If a seller fails to deliver the correct quantity, the buyer may reject the goods in accordance
with the Sale of Goods Act 1979, section 30(1). The nature of this right to reject is unclear, and whether
breach by short delivery will sufﬁce to terminate the contract is also unclear. The purpose of this paper
is to clarify this area of law.
Design/methodology/approach – The focus is on the combined case-law and academic
commentary on the topic of short delivery, and the broader issue of termination.
Findings – The paper suggests that breach by short delivery does terminate the contract. It suggests
that the right to cure cannot provide an entirely satisfactory response for victims of short delivery. The
paper also proposes a reform of the Sale of Goods Act 1979 to take this into account.
Research limitations/implications – This research mainly focused on the current legal position.
Further research on the historical development of the rules on short delivery, which were crystallised
in the Sale of Goods Act 1893, will provide valuable insights into this area of law.
Practical implications – The proposal for reform could have a practical beneﬁt in terms of
protecting buyers from the danger of short delivery, by providing them with a more secure remedy
than what appears to be currently available.
Originality/value – To the extent of the author’s knowledge, this is the ﬁrst dedicated analysis of
short delivery in the literature.
Keywords United Kingdom, Legislation, Case law, Commercial law, Sale of goods, Contracts,
Termination, Rejection, Right to cure, Short delivery, Reform of the Law of Sale
Paper type Research paper
If a seller delivers the wrong quantity of goods to the buyer, the Sale of Goods Act 1979
(“SGA”) s 30(1) (references to sections will be to sections of the SGA unless otherwise
stated) provides that “the buyer may reject the goods”. With delivery engendering
confusion (Benjamin, 1868, p. 497) alongside commercial and judicial uncertainty over
the right to reject (Honnold, 1949, p. 457), it is unfortunate that the Law Commissions
have vacillated over the relationship between the right to reject for short delivery and
termination (Law Commission and Scottish Law Commission, 1983, para. 6.27, 1987,
paras. 1.14, 6.17). Recent cases have either ignored s 30(1) or deemed it irrelevant, or
damages were considered a sufﬁcient remedy. Yet the Law Commissions have
recently stated that s 30 was regarded “as a reasonable, sensible and logical set of rules to
deal with the wrong quantity of goods being delivered” (Law Com 317, para. 3.127).
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A version of this article was presented at the Society of Legal Scholars Conference, at the
University of Cambridge, in September 2011. I would like to thank Dr George Zhou for
encouraging me to run with this rather strange idea, and Dr Camilla Andersen, Dr Lorna Gillies,
Dr Ruth Wadman and Professor Janet Ulph for putting up with my rather strange explanations
of why this area of law is interesting. The usual disclaimer applies.
Journal of International Trade Law
Vol. 11 No. 1, 2012
q Emerald Group Publishing Limited