Consumer Rights for Private Sales
These days more and more people are buying items via private sales sites, and there are lots of platforms such as eBay, Gumtree and Shpock that make private selling and buying so much easier. Whether your private sale purchase is on a site like eBay or from an actual Car Boot sale the rules that govern it are the same.
Private sales are surrounded by very few rules and regulations, compared to those made with a retailer or trader. It's important that you're aware of your rights in advance in case something goes wrong, so you can act - either as the buyer or the seller - quickly and effectively.
What are consumer rights for buyers?
The Consumer Rights Act 2015 does not apply to private sellers, and a buyer's rights are significantly reduced when a sale is carried out between two individuals. The law does state, however, that:
- the seller must have the right to sell the item in question (meaning they are the owner, or have permission from the owner to sell the item)
- the goods must match their description and the photograph used
Not only do the laws above protect you from stolen our counterfeit goods, they also enable the buyer to raise a dispute if an item is sold as something it's not. Buyers should pay great attention to an item's description - which can range from a simple picture to details provided by the seller themselves.
For example, if you purchase a bedside table from a private seller and it arrives with scuffs and marks on the surface, your rights will vary depending on the description given.
Goods from private sellers do not have to be fault-free, and if the marks were clearly mentioned by the seller or visible in a photograph, then unfortunately you have no case. However, if the bedside table was advertised as 'good as new', for example, you have the right to ask for a refund or compensation.
If very few or no details are provided by the seller, be wary. Misrepresentation is illegal, but a lack of information isn't. Either arrange to see the item in person, or ask for further details before taking the purchase any further.
When it comes to purchasing goods from private sellers, the phrase 'buyer beware' is often uttered. With limited consumer rights, it's important to shop carefully and heed caution.
To prevent yourself from falling foul of scams and untrustworthy sellers, you should do the following when possible:
- Read all of the reviews on the seller from previous customers
- View the item, in person, first. Meet in daylight if possible and in a public place. If you must meet at the seller’s home take a friend with you.
- Avoid advance payments
- If you must pay online, use a secure service that offers buyer protection like PayPal or Shieldpay.
- Ask for the item to be tracked. CollectPlus send offers free end to end tracking as standard.
- Don't jump on deals that are too good to be true - if the item is much cheaper than you've found elsewhere, ask why
Products sold with a manufacturer's guarantee
If you receive a manufacturer's guarantee with an item purchased from a private seller, it's likely to be invalid. Check with the manufacturer in question first, but most guarantees usually only apply to the initial buyer.
Consumer rights for private sellers
Sellers, in the same fashion as buyers, have limited consumer rights when it comes to private sales. Ensuring an item's description is as accurate as possible, and having a clear returns policy for buyers, is the best way to protect yourself in the case of a dispute.
Sellers that plan on taking online payments are advised to use PayPal. PayPal's Seller Protection policy can help you to resolve issues with goods fairly, and you will have the opportunity to become a verified PayPal seller too - a symbol that assures buyers you can be trusted.
If you use a third-party website, and are having issues with false claims or still waiting to receive payment from a buyer, the company you are using to sell your goods through may also have a system in place to protect you. eBay, for example, has a Seller Protection team on hand, and disputes may be opened and initially dealt with via the Resolution Centre.
Raising a complaint as a buyer
If an item is faulty, not as described or simply doesn't arrive, you may be able to make a claim or raise a dispute. This process will vary depending on which third-party service has been used.
As a general rule, contacting the private seller first is the best way to try and resolve any issues you may have with the item.
If a simple message to the seller doesn't seem appropriate, you may find Which?'s letter templates for filing complaints useful. Which? offers two templates, one for goods not as described, and another for faulty goods. Both are focused around eBay, but can be adjusted for Shpock, Gumtree or any other service that hosts private sales.
- First, contact the seller about the item. To do this, go to the Resolution Centre
- Select the appropriate option under 'I bought an item'. Choose either 'I haven't received it yet' or 'I received an item that does not match the seller's description'
- Press 'Continue'
- Select 'Open Case' on the item you have an issue with
- Provide information about your problem, and how to seller can resolve your issue
- Press send, and wait for the seller to offer a solution
Buyers are required to give sellers eight days to respond. If the problem has been resolved, you may close the case. However, if you receive no response or a suitable solution has not been offered, eBay will get involved.
Select 'Escalate the case to Customer Support' to continue with the complaints process. eBay will have 48 hours to assess the case and, if the conditions of the eBay Money Back Guarantee are met, you will receive a full refund.
Like eBay, Depop have a 'Buyer Protection' scheme. However, buyers will only be protected if:
- the item has been purchased directly through the app, using the 'Buy' button
- the complaint is filed within 180 days of the purchase
Any sale conducted outside of Depop will not be covered by the Buyer Protection scheme, including those arranged in person. If you do meet the above requirements however, you can open a dispute with the seller.
To open a dispute on Depop, buyers should:
- Head to their profile
- Select 'Support'
- Choose 'Help'
- Click 'Report a transaction problem' and select the item in question
If you are using a third-party website to purchase an item for a private seller, whether you pay online or meet in person, you should always check if the third-party offer some form of buyer protection or an official complaints process.
Companies such as Shpock, Gumtree, Preloved and Facebook Marketplace will not take responsibility for any transactions. Instead, they suggest buyers use PayPal to remain protected. You will, however, be able to report a seller which can help other buyers from being scammed in the future.
When it comes to purchasing goods from retailers, a buyer's consumer rights are much greater. Discover what to do if you receive a faulty item, and how to apply for a refund, from a retailer by taking a look at our useful guide .