Sale of damaged goods for example, on Ebay

What is the law in relation to damaged goods?

The rights of a buyer in relation to damaged goods depend upon a number of factors including whether the goods were damaged before they left the seller or whether they were damaged during transit.

Goods damaged before they left the seller

Where goods are damaged before they leave the seller the rights of the buyer will depend upon what the parties agreed at the time when the contract was made, what information the seller gave the buyer about the goods and whether the buyer inspected the goods before the contract was made.

What was agreed?

An agreement for the sale of goods will include both “express terms” (those terms which were specifically agreed between the parties) and “implied terms” (terms implied by conduct or the law).  

In an agreement for the sale of goods it will be an express term that the seller will sell to the buyer the goods and that the buyer will pay the seller an agreed amount for the goods. It may be an express term of the contract that the goods were new and not damaged. If that is the case where the goods are damaged before they leave the seller the seller will be liable for the damage.  

An agreement may contain certain other terms implied by the law.  

The Sale of Goods Act 1979, as amended, implies into a contract for the sale of goods certain terms relating to the quality of the goods being sold where such goods are sold in the course of a business. Where goods are sold during the course of a business they must be of “satisfactory quality”. Damaged goods are unlikely to be of satisfactory quality.  

The Sale of Goods Act 1979, as amended, also implies into a contract for the sale of goods a term that the goods will correspond with any description given of them. This applies whether the goods are sold by a business or an individual.  

As most buyers of goods on eBay rely on the description of the goods given by the buyer as it is generally not practical to inspect the goods prior to a contract being made this provision will assist most buyers of damaged goods bought on eBay.  

If the goods were described by the seller as being damaged, however, the seller will only be liable for any additional damage sustained since the contract was made or any damage which was not contained in the description. If for example, the seller of a damaged car stated that the car had a damaged wing mirror but omitted to mention that the bumper was also damaged, the seller will not be liable for the damaged wing mirror but will be liable for the damaged bumper unless the buyer inspected the car before the contract was made and knew or ought to have known that the bumper was also damaged.  

Similarly, if the seller of a damaged car stated that the car had a damaged wing mirror and after the contract was made the car was involved in a further accident, the seller will not be liable for the damaged wing mirror but will be liable for the subsequent damage to the car unless the parties have agreed otherwise, for example, the buyer may still be prepared to buy the car but at a lower price.

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For more information on:

  • What rights does the buyer have where the seller is responsible for the damage?
  • Goods damaged in transit
  • If the seller is liable for the damage are they also responsible for the cost of returning the goods?