Buyer beware!

Seth Godin has an interesting take on a well worn legal tag “buyer beware” – see here

While I accept Godin’s analysis and recommendation for all businesses – and will strive to implement it throughout my own business – “buyer beware” is still a fundamental tenet of English law:

  • If you buy a house, the seller has no obligation to disclose any defects: it is for you, as the buyer, to check that all is as you expect it to be – and I recommend using a good surveyor to inspect the house with expert eyes
  • Similarly, if you take a lease of a property, it is for you, as the tenant, to satisfy yourself that the property is suitable for your needs and that the repairing obligations you take on are appropriate
  • If you buy a secondhand car (or anything else secondhand) it is for you, the buyer, to check its condition and suitability.

These basic rules have sometimes been modifiedor even reversed by legislation:

  • residential short term tenancies, for instance, carry an obligation on the part of the landlord to ensure certain basic facilities, such as space and water heating and fitness for human habitation
  • the Sale of Goods Act imposes on a retailer obligations to ensure that goods are fit for purpose and are as described.

However, these modifications are still the exception, rather than the rule; they nearly always only protect consumers against businesses – not businesses against businesses nor consumers against non-businesses – and they do not apply in all “B2C” transactions.

The golden rule is still “buyer beware”.  A silver rule is to deal with established, preferably local, businesses: they are less likely to apply the “buyer beware” rule so ruthlessly.


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