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Consumer affairs: Buying goods from private sellers

In today’s digital age, it is becoming increasingly common for consumers to buy goods from private sellers, often through online marketplaces and social media platforms. While this type of shopping may offer unique opportunities and cost-saving benefits to buyers, it also, however, raises concerns about consumer rights and responsibilities in such transactions.

A very important legal right consumers have when buying goods from online marketplaces is to be given transparent and accurate information on sellers. In other words, consumers must know whether they are buying from an individual or a professional seller. This distinction is important because consumer protection rules do not regulate private sales.

For online purchases, this means that the 14-day withdrawal period does not apply. It also means that if the product purchased turns out to be defective, the buyers cannot seek the assistance of consumer authorities to resolve the dispute but will need to take independent legal action. It is the legal responsibility of the online marketplace to provide this information to consumers.

Consumers must know whether they are buying from an individual or a professional seller

Once consumers are made aware that the seller is an individual, it is imperative that they take certain precautions.

In the first instance, buyers should research the type of product they need to buy and its market value. More importantly, research should be done on the seller’s reputation by checking reviews from previous buyers when possible. Sellers with bad reviews should definitely be avoided.

Once due diligence on the seller and the product for sale is done, consumers are advised to use secure payment methods when making these sales transactions. Direct money transfers should be avoided. In addition, buyers should request that a traceable postal service is used.

Since goods purchased from private sellers are usually sold as ‘tale quale’, including wear-and-tear damages, before committing to the purchase, buyers are advised to request sellers to point out any flaws. It is also advisable to keep a record of any communication made with the seller as proof of the sales agreement.

Buyers should also pay particular attention to an item’s description. If, for instance, a buyer is interested in buying an appliance or a piece of furniture and these have some visible damages, if these were either mentioned in the description of the product or were clearly visible in the images advertising the product, buyers will not have legal grounds to cancel the sales agreement or request a refund of the money paid.

If the seller is local, ideally buyers should first request to see and inspect the item for sale before concluding the purchase. Furthermore, buyers should make sure that they are given a receipt of payment and that they have the seller’s full contact details just in case they need to contact the seller about problems encountered.

If the private seller is advertising the product for sale as still covered by a valid commercial guarantee, a copy of the guarantee’s document should be provided. Before concluding the purchase, buyers are advised to check whether the guarantee can be transferred to other owners. If the guarantee’s certificate does not include a specific clause that prohibits its transfer, then any subsequent owners of the product may benefit from the guarantee until it expires.

In situations where goods bought from individuals turn out to have a hidden defect not mentioned by the seller before the sale was concluded, buyers may be entitled to request a remedy. However, it is important that buyers have in their possession documentation proving that the item purchased was misleadingly described by the seller.

In case of any complaint, this must always first be addressed to the seller, and any communication should be made in writing. In this correspondence, the seller should be informed about the problem and the solution the buyer is expecting. If the private seller is not willing to resolve the problem, then buyers will need to consider the value of the product and whether it is worth going to court.

Buying goods from individuals can be a rewarding shopping experience as these types of purchases provide buyers with the possibility to buy the goods they need at lower prices. However, it also requires buyers to be more vigilant before concluding a purchase. Buyers must never forget that while individual sellers can offer great deals, it is imperative that they approach these sales transactions by exercising caution and due diligence.