Sale of Damaged Goods
When we buy something, whether that is second hand on eBay or in a store, we expect it to be the best condition possible, after all, we have paid the money out for it we do not expect sale of damaged goods. Most of the time this is the case and we will receive exactly what we paid for. But what if we don’t? instead we are sold damaged goods.
What can we do if we receive damaged goods? To help you to understand more about where you stand, we have put together this article that explores in more detail the sale of damaged goods.
If someone buys damaged goods, then the rights of the buyer will depend on a number of factors. The two main factors that will be taken into account are whether the goods were damaged before they left the seller, or if they were damaged during the transport and transit process to the customer.
Goods that were damaged before they left the seller
You would hope that the goods that you buy leave the seller in the very best condition, however, there is still a chance that goods can be damaged before they even leave their premises. Your rights as the buyer in this situation will really depend on what was agreed when the contract was made between the two parties. It will also depend on the information that the seller provided to the buyer about the goods at the point of purchase and whether or not the buyer was able to inspect the goods before the contract was made.
What did you agree?
So, what is meant by what was agreed? The agreement of the sale of the goods that have been bought will include not only the express terms and the implied terms. Express terms are terms which have been specifically agreed between the buyer and the seller and implied terms are terms that are implied by good conduct or the law.
One of the most express terms that will be a part of the agreement of the sale of goods will be that the seller will sell the buyer the agreed goods, and that the buyer will pay the seller an agreed amount for those goods. Another express term that could form a part of this agreement is that the goods that were bought were new, or that they were used, however, the key here is that they were not damaged. If this agreement is in place and the goods are damaged before they leave the seller, then the seller will be liable for the damage to the goods.
Implied terms, that are implied by law can also form part of the agreement of sale. This includes the Sale of Goods Act 1979. One term that is contained within this Act is that the goods that have been sold in the course of business are going to be of satisfactory quality. Goods that are damaged are likely to be seen as goods that fall below satisfactory quality.
Another part of the Sales of Goods Act 1979 is that when you enter into a contract to sell and buy goods, that the goods that you are buying or selling will correspond to the description that has been given of them. It doesn’t matter if these goods are being sold by a business or being sold by an individual. This particular point becomes all the more important if you are buying from eBay, or another online portal like it, as you are only going to be able to rely on the description of the goods that has been given by the buyer. It is not always practical or possible for the buyer to inspect the goods before they enter the contract to buy the goods.
If the seller has described the goods that are for sale as being damaged, then the seller will only be liable for any additional damage that has occurred to the item. This is because the contract was made with the damage included and the buyer was aware of what they were entering into.
An example of this is if a seller of a damaged car stated that the car had a damaged wing mirror, but they did not mention that the bumper of the car was also damaged. They would not be liable for the wing mirror; however, they would be for the damaged bumper. Things change again if the buyer inspected the car before the contract was made, or if they knew (or even should have realised) that the bumper was also damaged.
Not only this, but if the car was and the buyer was aware of the damaged wing mirror, but more damage occurred after the contract was made, such as the car was involved in an accident or became scratched then the seller would be liable for that additional damage. They should let the buyer know that the car has become more damaged and that they are still happy to make the purchase and enter the contract?
If the seller is responsible for the damage, what rights does the buyer have?
A seller is responsible for damage if they have breached the terms of the contract. Such as not advising of the damage that has occurred at the point of sale. In this circumstance the buyer has every right to ask for their money back, although this should be within a reasonable time frame. The nature of the goods that have been bought will relate to the time frame that is seen as being reasonable. By this we mean, if the goods are of a nature that would mean that they are unlikely to be used for some time, then the buyer could not be expected to notice the damage straightaway. This means that the reasonable time frame will be longer than for other items that could be used on a daily or immediate basis.
Within the Sale and Supply of Goods to Consumers Regulation 2002, the consumer, if they are non-business, also has the right to request a repair or a replacement for goods that are damaged or faulty when they receive them, and they were not made aware of this when entering into the contract.
Goods that have been damaged in transit or transport
When goods leave the seller, then it is the hope that they will be treated carefully and that they will not be damaged or broken when they arrive with the buyer. However, this isn’t always the case and items can arrive damaged, and this can happen during transport. The rights of the buyer when goods are damaged in transit, will normally depend on what was agreed at the point when the contract was agreed.
For most circumstances, the seller will still be liable for any damage that occurs by a third party, in this case, a delivery company. That said, if both parties agree at the point of contract, that the seller would not be liable for any damage that has been caused during transit, then the seller will not be liable. You will often find that sellers will ensure that their terms and conditions of sale will include the exclusion or limitation of their liability for items that are damaged in transit. Therefore, it is always important to ensure that you check this before you enter into any buying contract.
If the seller has not included this exclusion, then they may have used an insured postage service in order to send their items. This may help the seller to claim back any money that relates to the damage of their item, however, having this insurance does not mean that the obligations of the seller to the buyer. The refund or replacement should always be dealt with first, then the seller can try and claim their money back.
If the seller has included in their terms and conditions that they are not liable for the damage by third parties, then the buyer could always try to make a claim against the third party. However, the liability that postal carriers and couriers will take is often very limited and therefore the buyer may find that they are not able to recover the full amount paid for the goods.
It is important to keep in mind that if the buyer collects the goods from the seller and transports them themselves then the seller will not be liable for the damage.
What about the return of the goods and the costs associated to this?
If it has been deemed that the seller is liable for any damage that has occurred to the goods, then it is also the case that the seller will need to take responsibility for the costs that are associated to the return of the goods. This also includes if the goods have been agreed to be disposed rather than replaced.
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.