Buying goods at private sales or auction
Many consumer guarantees do not apply if you buy goods from a private person, rather than through a business. Only the consumer guarantees for clear title, undisturbed possession and freedom from hidden securities apply.
Private sales include those made through newspaper classifieds, garage sales or online forums (e.g. eBay), where you are buying from a private person.
Private sales are usually a ‘verbal contract’ between the buyer and seller. Unfortunately, a breach of a verbal contract is difficult to prove. If you have lost money buying privately, contact a solicitor for legal advice.
Buying at auction
Many consumer guarantees do not cover any goods you buy at an auction if the auctioneer is selling the goods on behalf of a private owner. You are responsible for checking that the goods are of an acceptable standard.
Buying at online auctions
Your rights to consumer guarantees will depend on the type of online auction you buy through.
They are usually either
- through an open marketplace, like eBay
- traditional auctions conducted online
- auctions conducted by businesses online.
Open marketplace online auctions
In these virtual markets, a business sets up the website and provides a set of rules and guidelines, but it is mostly left to the individual buyers and sellers to deal directly with each other.
In these types of auctions, the business running the website may not be directly involved in the auction process and may not be an agent for the seller. A well-known example is eBay.
eBay is not classed as an auction because it does not act as an agent on behalf of the seller. Therefore, if you buy through an eBay auction from a seller that is a business, all of your consumer guarantees apply, as eBay does not act as an agent on behalf of the store.
If you buy through eBay from a private seller, many of your consumer guarantees do not apply.
Traditional auctions conducted by an auctioneer online
This is where the auctioneer acts on behalf of the seller of the goods and, instead of buyers gathering together in person, an online auction house uses a website to create a virtual auction.
In this type of auction, the auctioneer is an agent for the seller. Many consumer guarantees do not cover any goods you buy at this type of online auction if the auctioneer is selling the goods on behalf of a private owner.
Auctions conducted by businesses online
This is where the business running the website offers their own products for sale by a tender process. In this case, all of your consumer guarantees apply.
Consumer rights for online auctions
You can make a complaint and ask for a refund under the Australian Consumer Law if an Australian business, through online auction, sold you a product that:
- you were misled about the features of, or where costs or other details were hidden from you
- was stolen, did not belong to the business or individual, or came with outstanding debts, charges or restrictions the business didn’t tell you about beforehand
- was faulty or does not do what it is supposed to (but this does not apply to traditional auctions).
It may be more difficult to resolve a dispute with an overseas business selling through an online auction.
While you can report problems to the auction website, disputes are usually between the seller and the buyer, as the website is not involved in the actual sales process—except in traditional auctions or where the auction website is offering its own products for sale.
If you need help resolving a dispute, refer to understanding the complaint process.