If you purchase a second-hand item from a business, trader or charity shop, the consumer rights that you are entitled to are extremely similar to those you have when buying an item that's brand new. Namely the goods should be:
These rights in the UK are defined in the Consumer Rights Act and cover any purchase from a trader made since October 2015.
If you discover a fault with an item, this act gives you the right to return it for a full refund within the first 30 day of purchase. After the first 30 days (but within the first six months) you can still return the item, but you must give the retailer the opportunity to replace or repair the fault.
After six months, to return the item you must prove that the fault was present when it was first purchased, which can be more difficult if a product was second hand or pre-owned from the outset.
Second hand products may have imperfections and faults that are attributed to normal wear and tear. In some cases, there may be quality issues with a product due to its age and how it has been previously used.
When considering the laws on buying second hand goods and your consumer rights, it's important to remember that second hand products or refurbished goods do not have to be of the same quality as new items. Therefore, you cannot simply reject an item because it is not of the same standard as you would expect if it was brand new.
Fit for Purpose with second hand goods.
Fit for purpose means that the item must function correctly and last for a period of time that is 'reasonable'. In relation to used goods the item should function fully for the purpose it was designed and sold for. However, being a used item, it may show signs of being pre-owned and not last as long as you would expect a brand-new item to last.
Satisfactory Quality with second hand goods.
Satisfactory quality is basically a standard that a reasonable person would consider as being acceptable taking into consideration the item's description, price and circumstances of the purchase. It is most often relating to a product's appearance, freedom from defect, durability and safety. Obviously, the quality of an item can be subjective, but your expectations should generally be lower if you are purchasing an item that has been previously used.
As Described with second hand goods.
As described means that an item must be accurately advertised and described by the trader. If you asked questions about the product in store prior to purchasing, such as its warranty status, service history or how it currently operates, the information given should all be correct. Likewise, if the salesperson advises you of a fault with an item, then it is 'as described' and you can't reject it due to it having the fault.
Warranty on second hand goods.
Warranties or guarantees are an optional addition to your legal (statutory) rights as a consumer.
Warranty can be provided by the manufacturer as part of the product or able to be purchased separately and ran by a third party (e.g. used-car warranty, extended appliance guarantee etc.)
Your eligibility to claim under the warranty will depend on the warranty policy's terms and conditions, however it is not uncommon for there to be numerous exclusions. These can range from the age of the item (12 months from original purchase), where it was purchased from (an authorised retailer or dealership), being conditional on regular maintenance (serviced every year) or limited to certain faults (excludes wear and tear).
Another common exclusion is that you must be the original purchaser or at least have proof of the original purchase, such as a receipt.
The specific warranty policy needs to be checked to confirm if an item is eligible for a repair or return. But it is always worth checking especially on recently manufactured products.
Section 75 protection.
Depending on how you paid the retailer for your purchase, and if no warranty is available, there may also be some additional protections available known as Section 75. This section of the Consumer Credit Act basically means that any credit provider involved in the purchase shares responsibility if things go wrong.
Therefore if you made the purchase with a credit card, store card or car finance agreement, you should contact your card issuer or finance provider to see if there is any action they can take.
Buying second hand goods online.
When buying second hand goods online, over the telephone, at home, or through mail order from a retailer you will also benefit from additional protections. Namely the Consumer Contract Regulations, or to give it its full name The Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013.
These regulations cover what was previously known as 'Distance Selling' and provides some extra rights, even when purchasing a used product. These rights include:
The retailer is entitled to expect that anything sent back is returned in the exact condition as it was received. This can sometimes be a point of dispute when returning second hand goods as they are likely to have not been in original packaging etc. in the first instance.
An important point to remember when buying second hand products online is that not every website purchase is classed as buying from a business. When you buy from sites such as eBay, Facebook Marketplace, Gumtree, Shpock, Vinted or Amazon Marketplace you will need to check if the actual seller is a business or trader. As if they are a private individual, then consumer rights and contract protections will not apply to your purchase.
However many online trading sites do have their own buyer protection policies and dispute resolution processes which may be able to be used.
Consumer Rights and private sellers.
If you purchase items from a private seller via a web advertisement, local newspaper ad or car boot sale it is important to be aware that you don't have any consumer rights. For the Consumer Rights Act to apply you need to be an individual making a purchase from a business.
If you do buy a second-hand item from a private individual it only has to match any advertised description. This limited protection falls under The Misrepresentation Act for when an untrue fact or statement is made by the seller to convince a buyer to make a purchase.
A private seller isn't under any obligation to tell you about any faults or defects, and there's no requirement for the item to be of satisfactory quality or suitable for any specific purpose.
So, as you may have heard, purchasing from a private seller is a matter of 'buyer beware'. You should check the product thoroughly to ensure you are 100% happy before buying it.
Legal advice on second hand rights.
In the majority of cases once you make the retailer aware of the fault, they should deal with your concerns inline with your consumer rights. If they refuse, the next step is escalating the matter as a complaint and then involving any associated ombudsman which should be detailed in the retailer's terms and conditions.
If all these steps fail, your only available method of resolution may be to start court proceedings. If the value of your claim is less than £10,000, it will be treated as a 'small claim' which means there are set fees to issue the claim and only limited legal expenses are able to be added (see our guide on how much does it cost to take someone to court).
Therefore if the value of your consumer claim is significant, it will be worthwhile seeking legal advice on your dispute before beginning court action to ensure the consumer laws are on your side.
Catalyst Law are team of legal professionals with over 20 years' experience helping businesses and people with their legal problems.
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