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Title: Private sale - do I have to give a refund?

Date: 23 April 2015

Question

I had been advertising my bike for a couple of months and had the usual time wasters. However I have just sold it in a private sale for £5,000 to someone who seemed genuine. Although the bike was in perfect working order and excellent condition when delivered and the purchaser had tested it, he now tells me that the engine has a fault. I could not have known about the fault if it exists as I rode the bike to him as part of the delivery. He says that because he notified me within 24 hours of the fault becoming evident he is entitled to and wants a full refund and to return the bike. Where do I stand as the seller?

P Tincombe, Devon

Answer

The basic rule is “caveat emptor”, Latin for “let the buyer beware”. In a private sale it is the purchaser’s responsibility to exercise due diligence and ensure that he is getting what he is paying for.

In contrast, when the seller is selling in the course of business, the harshness of this rule is tempered by the Sale of Goods Act 1979, which implies into the purchase contract various terms to ensure that the goods are of satisfactory quality. However, you were not selling in the course of business.

Assuming that you did not make false statements or “misrepresentations” then the purchaser has no recourse against you. Of course a seller is not allowed to tell lies and if he does so and the purchaser relies on the veracity of what he has been told which then manifests as an issue, he will have recourse against the seller.

Providing you did not give false assurances in relation to the bike you are not guilty of fraudulent misrepresentation and as such caveat emptor applies – you are under no legal obligation to provide a refund. It appears you sold the bike in good faith and it is bad luck for the buyer. Buyers are well advised to pay for a pre-purchase inspection to pick up on any problems.

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