Buying second-hand goods
Are you looking for new-to-you clothing within your budget or do you like to buy pre-loved home-ware to avoid wastage?
Buying second-hand can save you money and help to save the environment. But different laws apply depending on where you buy your second-hand goods from.
If you are buying from a second-hand dealer then the Consumer Guarantees Act applies. So you can expect the goods to be fit for purpose, safe, free from defects, look acceptable, and last for a reasonable amount of time.
If the product breaks then you can take it back to get either a refund, repair or replacement if the problem is minor, or a full refund if the problem is major or causes a safety risk.
Since you know the product is second-hand then factors like price, information about the products and general wear and tear, will affect how long you can expect it to last, or what is acceptable in appearance.
If you are buying goods at auction remember that the Consumer Guarantees Act doesn’t apply.
You will probably have to sign an agreement to the terms of the auction. Read these carefully to see what the auction rules are. The terms of the auction should be made available to you before the auction; they might be on signs or posters in the auction room.
The terms will often include extra money to be paid to the auction house, when the goods have to be collected by, and how you can pay.
The Fair Trading Act does apply, so that means that goods have to be the same as they were described to you. If anything goes wrong, the Contractual Remedies Act may be used to get your money back.
The Sale of Goods Act requires that the goods be of ‘merchantable quality’ and that the seller has the right to sell the goods. But auctioneers are allowed to contract out of this Act, so you will need to check the terms of the auction.
Goods sold at auction can be seized if there is money owing on them and the item has been used as security.
You can check the Personal Property Securities Register [links] to check if the item has money owing, or if a creditor has a security interest in the item.
The same laws that apply to auctions, also apply to online auctions when the seller is a trader (in this case ‘trader’ means someone who sells a lot of items). When you buy from a trader at a ‘buy now’ price then the same laws apply as when buying from a second-hand dealer. But if the seller isn’t a professional trader, then it is classed as a private sale.
Private sales include buying at a garage sale, from a neighbour, from an ad in the paper and also private internet sales or auctions. Private sales are not covered by the Consumer Guarantees Act or the Fair Trading Act. This means you have less consumer law protection and it is important to check out what you are buying.
See if mechanical or electrical items work, and get them checked out by an expert if you can. For a car, get an independent pre-purchase check by a mechanic and check for money owing on the car. If the item has a manufacturers warranty on it, it may still apply after the sale so make sure you get that off the seller.
Get a receipt from the seller saying when you bought it and the name and address of the seller. Also write down anything that the seller has told you about the item. If anything turns out not to be true you may use the Contractual Remedies Act to get money back.
For more information about your consumer rights, visit our website [links] or your local Citizen’s Advice Bureau.