When you buy something from a ‘non-professional trader’ (private sale) you don’t have the same rights as you would if you were to make a purchase from a regular high street store for example. As a general rule, the principle, caveat emptor (let the buyer beware) applies. Therefore when you buy something from a private seller you must exercise the relevant due diligence in terms of whether the product is fit for purpose and whether it is safe.
When you buy something whether it’s from someone in the pub, from an advertisement in the newspaper or a car boot sale you won’t have any rights or protection from the Sale of Goods Act 1979. Therefore you should always make sure that you thoroughly inspect the product before you buy as far as you can to make sure it is not defective.
Private Sales: Top Tips
- Avoid buying from a seller who you can only contact through a mobile phone number. Also if they only want to meet in a public place or at your place of work or your home this should ring alarm bells. If you do decide to buy the item ask for a receipt with the sellers name and address so you can contact them if there are any problems with the purchase.
- Certain products can present a serious risk. Those such as car seats, home furnishings that could contain harmful or toxic chemicals, electrical items that are dangerous or children’s toys that don’t meet safety standards
- Be aware that when buying from a private seller the goods that you purchase could be stolen. Popular stolen products that are sold include tools, ornaments or bikes.
- Understand that some products may be counterfeit. These products are often very cheap, poor quality products including perfume, clothes, cosmetics, watches, alcohol, software and tools.
- When you attend a market or car boot sale and you find new items, they are often professional traders who are trading as a private seller. Often this is a way to avoid the implications of the Sale of Goods Act and there’s nothing you can do if the item turns out to be faulty or dangerous.
- The rules that are in place for consumers may not apply for private sellers or they may simply be ignored altogether. Consumers who buy products from private sellers can be mislead in terms of pricing, experience unfair trading or find that safety standards have been breached. Private sellers can also import goods illegally to sell and if something does go wrong with what you have bought it would be very difficult to pursue any form of action against the seller.
If you buy something in a private sale and things go wrong, there may be certain things that you can do to protect your purchase.
Indemnity Fees – Some sellers will allow you to pay an indemnity fee which allows you to decline a product within one month of buying. Where sellers exclude all liability this may be a wise decision.
Credit Card – If you complete the purchase using a credit card you do have a certain degree of protection if something goes wrong. Any purchase that you make over £100 up to £30,000 is protected.
When you buy something a contract is created with the trader and the credit card company. Under the Consumer Credit Act 1974, they are both, jointly liable for any issues that arise with products or services.
If what you buy is unsuitable, not fit for purpose or faulty, or they are not delivered you are entitled to complain to the seller or the credit card company. This can be really beneficial if you can’t find the trader or they are unwilling to assist. In addition, you also have the right to take action against the credit card provider for the full cost of the item if the trader can’t be traced or they go out of business.
If you make a purchase and it’s a private sale, the law states that the goods you receive must match the description in the advert. When you buy from a private seller, the returns process isn’t as straightforward and it is often difficulty to reject faulty goods and receive a full refund.
You may be able to claim compensation but only if a contract has been broken. If, for example the seller stated that something was in good working order but then you received it and it turned out to be faulty you may be able to claim compensation. However it can be very difficult to prove that the seller said this unless it was in an email or written form. The level of compensation that you can claim will depend on the nature of the problem and whether it caused any injury.
When you buy via private sale a dispute can arise. If they do knowing what your rights are can make all the difference. In the first instance you should contact the seller. If the item is faulty, stop using it immediately and find your proof of purchase if you received one.
If you didn’t check your credit card statements if you paid by card. Contact the seller and explain that the product is faulty and ask them what you want. The seller may ignore your message, negotiate or offer a refund or exchange. Although you can go to court, it is not always the best option.
If you don’t get any response from your initial communication, write to the seller again and give them a timeframe to respond, 14 days should be about right. State that if you do not hear from them within 14 days you will consider taking legal action.
Keep records of what you sent and when and minute any phone conversations that you had with the seller.
If the seller still refuses to cooperate and you think that it would be worth it you can pursue the matter through the courts. Before you commence your claim you do need to consider whether you have adequate proof to support your claim. Informal resolution should always be considered over formal legal action. Court should be your last resort when all other avenues have failed.
About the author:
This article was written by a member of the Expert Answers legal advice team and posted by Lloyd Barrett. Expert Answers provides online legal advice on all aspects of UK Law to users in the United Kingdom.