What to do if you have a problem with a seller

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What to do if you have a problem with a seller


This is a short guide intended to give buyers some insight on what to do in the event of having problem with a seller. It describes the basic problems covered in this guide, what are the consumer rights (UK) and what to do next.

IMPORTANT - This guide is written in good faith and for informational purposes only, and should never be used as a reference to the law. This is also aiming for buyers living within the United Kingdom only. Seek legal advice for further information.

Example of Problems

  • Damaged products
  • Products not as described
  • Received counterfeit products when ordering in good faith that they are supposed to be genuine
  • Products never arrived

What does the law says

Sales of Goods Act 1979 (as amended)

This is a very common law that applies to quite a lot of buyers who find themselves having problems with their sellers.

The law states that the item must be:

  • as described
  • fitness for purpose
  • buyer can ask for money back within a reasonable time
  • buyer can ask for the product to be repaired or replaced, or refund if a repair or replacement is not acceptable

Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977

This is somewhat common to certain sellers who decided to put their own exclusions on their item descriptions to say that "all sales are final..." etc. The fact is that according to the fact sheets issued by the Department of Trade and Industry (05/1730), consumers buying goods on the internet, including auctions, enjoy the same rights as a normal consumer buying in a shop. Sellers are only allowed to put certain exclusions on their item descriptions, and they are all subject to the Unfair Contract Terms Act.

Consumer Protection (Selling Distance) Regulations 2000

Unfortunately, this law does not apply to purchases through auctions, including eBay. Therefore the winning bidder is required to complete the purchase. There is no cancellation right here.

What to do next?

  • Email the seller via eBay's "contact seller" button, or email the seller directly via his/her email address
  • Telephone the seller
  • Send letters to the seller by post
  • If all else failed, buyers may consider reclaiming any money due through the County Court (this is known as small claim). Seek legal advice on this if required.

What else do you need to know?

  • Always keep copies of all correspondance.
  • If the item is not as described or faulty, it is the seller's responsibility to arrange for the item to be collected. Many seller would ask you to send items back to him/her first. However, note that if you have a high value item, or if the item is counterfeit, for example, then it makes sense to make use of the Sales of Goods Act by requesting for an immediate refund before sending items back. You have the right to do so! Alternatively, for example, the seller may ask you to return the product and he/she will refund you with the money and reimburse the postage. However, you will also need to consider whether the seller would refund you the money after you sent the item back to him/her.
  • Contact Consumer Direct for advice!
  • Do not pay for your purchase by cash or Western Union. Use a safer method, such as by cheque, banker's draft, PayPal etc.
  • Make use of the PayPal Buyer Protection (up to £500) and the eBay's Standard Purchase Protection (up to £120).
  • Report problems to eBay.


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