The practice of buying goods from internet auction sites such as e-bay, and other online market places such as Amazon’s ‘Sell Your Stuff’ is becoming more and more mainstream. In these instances, you are not buying from the sites themselves, but from individuals who have put their possessions or products up for sale on those sites. This has risks in itself where those products cannot be verified, but it also has important implications for your consumer rights.

The Distance Selling Regulations

One of the major benefits of buying goods and services on the internet is the fact that you are covered by the distance selling regulations. Under the regulations, you have the right to a 7 day cooling off period and a full refund without financial penalty of any kind. However, if you have bought an item as the result of a successful bid on e-bay, the distance selling regulations (and hence your cooling off rights) do not apply. Neither will the regs apply if you have bought the item through a private sale with an individual who is not acting as a commercial entity.

If however you have bought the goods as a result of a ‘buy it now’ transaction, or from a commercial trader acting in the course of business, you will be covered, and can take full advantage of your cooling off period.

Your statutory right to quality

One of your statutory rights is that any item you buy from a retailer or manufacturer must be of satisfactory quality. However if you buy from an individual in the context of a private sale, this statutory right does not apply and you will have no legal redress if the item is unsatisfactory. This is a common cause of complaint. E bay offer lots of information on how to shop safely on their site including checking the seller’s feedback ratings, whether the item is covered by PayPal Buyer Protection, and what returns policy is offered. See: In the event that you have received a misdescribed, poor quality or faulty product, or if the item was never sent, report the matter to e-bay who will then take steps to ban that seller from any further trading.

Do remember however that not all transactions from these sites are with private sellers. Many are established businesses (e-tailers), and any dealings with them will be subject to your full statutory rights as well as a 7 day cooling off period under the Distance Selling Regs

Regardless of whether you buy the item from a commercial trader or a private seller, it must still conform to the description given in any sales literature.