Facebook – buyer beware


There are some risks involved when you buy second hand goods online.

Buying Privately

Private sales typically include buying at a garage sale, from a neighbour, from a classified ad in the paper, online auctions (where the seller isn’t a professional trader), and on social media sites like Facebook.

Generally, when you buy something privately, you do not have the right to cancel the contract and you have only limited rights if something goes wrong.This a case of “buyer beware”.

However, you do have rights when buying privately if the seller has misled you, the seller didn’t have the right to sell the goods, or if the seller sells you a product that does not comply with product safety standards.

The seller has misled you

The Contractual Remedies Act gives you a right to claim compensation if you agreed to the contract based on what the other party told you, that information turns out to be incorrect, and you suffered loss.

The amount of compensation should be sufficient to put you in the position you would have been if the misrepresentation hadn’t been made.

For example: John tells Mark that the phone he is buying from him, for the agreed price of $600, is a ‘popular smartphone brand’. Mark finds out a week later that the phone is in fact a counterfeit worth only $150. As Mark was misled he can seek compensation from John through the Disputes Tribunal for the cost of the difference $600 – $150 = $450.

The seller did not have the right to sell the goods

The Sale of Goods Act sets out a buyer’s right to cancel a contract or to claim compensation where, unknown to a buyer, the seller did not have the right to sell the goods, or the goods were being used as security.

The buyer can claim their money back from the seller, if the seller sold something when they did not have the right to.

For example:

Mary buys a car from a friend. She’s had the car for two weeks, when she gets a call from a finance company saying that the car was used as security under a consumer credit contract, and they want it back. Mary can take a claim to the Disputes Tribunal to try to recover her money from her friend. (www.consumersaffairs.govt.nz/for-consumers/how-to-complain/disputes-tribunal).

The seller sold you a product that doesn’t comply

Under the Fair Trading Act sellers of certain regulated products must comply with Product Safety Standards and Unsafe Goods Notices including:

• Household cots

• Baby walkers

• Children’s nightwear

• Small, high powered magnets, in sets of two or more

• Chainsaws without a chain brake.

For more information about prohibited goods, see www.consumerafairs.govt.nz or see us at your local bureau.