Sale of Goods Over the Internet
In this modern world the way that we buy goods has changed. More and more people are stepping away from physically buying items, be that second hand from someone else, or in a store, and instead looking online for their purchases. Sale of goods over the Internet come with a number inherent risks.
This has meant that websites, such as eBay have become all the more popular. With this, there have also had to be a number of laws that those people who sell on eBay should be aware of.
The Sale of Goods Act 1979
Quality of Goods
When goods are sold as a part of a business, then this Act states that they should be of satisfactory quality. This means that the item is going to meet the standards of a reasonable person when it comes to how satisfactory they are. This should also take into account the description of the goods that was provided as well as the price.
The quality of the goods will also include their state and condition and the main things that will be considered when assessing whether or not something is of satisfactory quality are as follows:
- Where the item is fit for purpose
- The finish and overall appearance of the item
- Whether the item is free from minor defects
- Whether the item is safe
- How durable the item is going to be
It doesn’t matter if the goods are new or if they are used. The Sale of Goods Act 1979 will apply to both. However, when it comes to used goods, it is reasonable to expect that the level of quality of the item will not be the same as goods that are brand new.
Damaged goods or seconds as they can be known are not prohibited to be sold within the Act, however, it is important to ensure that any defects in these goods are clearly highlighted to the potential purchasers.
If the item is on eBay then not only should the seller include the damage within the description, but it may also be sensible to share a picture to help to further identify and describe the damage.
Description of Goods
Another key part of this Act relates to the description of goods. It doesn’t matter if the goods are sold by a business or by an individual, the goods should correspond to the description that is given of them. This is particularly true for Sale of Goods Over the Internet, if the item is sold on an online marketplace, such as eBay, as the buyer is not going to be able to inspect the goods prior to the sale being made and a contract entered and the description that is given of the goods should be completely accurate and reflect the item that is being sold.
If the goods were being described by the seller as being damaged, the seller will only be liable for any additional damage that has been sustained since the contract has been made. As well as any damage that has not be included in the description of the goods.
The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008
The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 applies to Sale of Goods Over the Internet by businesses who are selling services or goods. Particularly those who falsely claim or create an impression that they are a consumer rather than a business. Which is a criminal offence. With this in mind, business sellers are advised that they should register on websites such as eBay as a business seller.
This means that they are making it clear that they are selling as a business to those who are buying from them.
There are 31 types of commercial practices that are deemed as being unfair within this Regulation, which has resulted in them being banned.
There are other practices that are deemed unfair only where the practice causes a consumer to take a different decision then they otherwise would. This includes not buying the product, not exercising cancellation rights when purchasing a product, or perhaps even paying a much higher price for the product then what they otherwise would.
The four categories of practices which would be unfair in these circumstances are:
- Generally unfair practices, where a commercial business are not acting fairly or honestly towards their customers
- Misleading actions, where untruthful or false information is given with a view to either deceiving the consumer or creating confusion around the products
- Misleading omissions where the seller does not state the price of the item or does not state whether it is exclusive of tax or delivery costs
- Aggressive practices where a seller will harass or coerce a buyer, influencing their decision making
During 2010, a person who sold on eBay in the UK was successful prosecuted under these Regulations for bidding on his own item. This is known as shill bidding and is something that is deceitful.
The Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002
Under the Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002, any businesses who sell or advertise on eBay, or any other website, must provide a certain level of information to the recipients of their online services.
The Regulations also require that within any advert that the seller makes sure that it is clear and known that they are a business and that the prices that they are charging are going to be clear and indicate whether or not they also include delivery costs and tax too.
The Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000
When a business sells on eBay to a consumer, then it is a requirement that they provide the buyer a certain level of information. This particular Regulation gives the consumer the right, in certain circumstances, to change their mind, even cancelling the contract if they wish too.
As well as this, the consumer, where the required information has not been provided, has the right to change their mind within a “cooling off period”, which rather than being set to 7 days, is actually set to 3 months.
The Business Protection from Misleading Marketing Regulations 2008
This particular set of Regulations apply to businesses trading with other businesses. They prohibit advertising which misleads traders, as well as looking at circumstances within which comparative advertising (advertising which identifies a competitor’s product) is permitted.
The Consumer Protection Act 1987
The Consumer Protection Act 1987 covers a much more serious situation. This is when a person is killed, or injured or their property is damaged, all down to a defective product. The person then has the right to sue the producer, the own-brander or the importer of this defective product for the damages that have occurred. If the seller does not fall into these categories, but cannot identify who does, then they will also be liable for the damage.
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.