What are my rights when buying from a private seller e.g. in a garage sale?
In general you have far fewer rights when buying from a private seller than a trader. For example private sales are not covered by the Consumer Guarantees Act or the Fair Trading Act so make sure you check out what you are buying - and from whom - before you commit.
Its a good idea to get a receipt from the seller and record anything they tell you about the item, as you may be covered by the Contract and Commercial Law Act if it turns out the seller has misrepresented the sale item. There is more information about the Contract and Commercial Law Act on the Consumer Protection (Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment) website. You can find out more about your rights on the rest of this page.
Back to top
What can I do to protect myself if I’m thinking of buying in a private sale?
Do your research, ask questions, use an escrow (third party) payment service and keep receipts, any records and the seller’s details.
Be suspicious of any deal that sounds too good to be true:
- Some people use Facebook pages to sell stolen goods, from hi-tech gear to weaponry. If the seller says it “needs to be gone”, there may be a dodgy reason behind it.
- For more expensive items (e.g. a car), check on the Personal Property Securities Register (PPSR) that the seller really owns it, and whether the goods are being used as security for a loan.
- If it’s a car then it’s a good idea to get a mechanic to look over it
- If the deal’s a real “steal”, ask them why. Could the designer watch be a fake? Or, maybe the seller has no intention of sending you anything in return for your payment.
- If possible, inspect the goods in person before you buy.
- Ask questions about the goods so you are clear on what to expect. It’s a good idea to ask if there are any faults and what the general condition of the goods is, and keep a copy of the answer.
Look for feedback from other customers (e.g. on the Facebook page, on message boards, on the feedback pages for a trading site) and check for the seller's contact details e.g. a phone number and address. Without the seller’s name and address you can’t claim against them in the Disputes Tribunal if things go wrong.
Consider using an escrow service (e.g. those used by Trade Me, or PayPal which is used by many overseas trading websites) where you pay the money to an independent third party who doesn’t release the money to the seller until you’ve received the goods.
If you're not using an escrow service, pay by credit card, internet banking (if to a New Zealand bank account), cheque or money order instead of cash or telegraphic transfer – so your payment can be tracked.
Make sure you get a receipt and the name and address of the seller, and record anything the seller has told you about the item. If anything goes wrong you can use this information to track down the seller and/or make a claim at the Disputes Tribunal.
Back to top
What can I do if I’m unhappy with what I bought in a private sale?
It’s best to start by contacting the seller directly and telling them what the problem is. The two of you may be able to agree on a solution (e.g. you return the goods and they return your money). Some online auctions sites have their own resolution processes, so if you’ve used one of these sites try contacting them.
If this doesn't work, your next option is to make a claim to the Disputes Tribunal. If you believe the seller misrepresented the goods to you, you can make a claim under the Contract and Commercial Law Act.
If you used an online trading host, you can use the host’s disputes procedure. For example if the sale was made via TradeMe you can file a dispute report with them, so that TradeMe will investigate the matter for you.
Make sure you provide appropriate feedback (e.g. on the seller's Facebook page or Trade Me account). If the sale was made via an online trading site and the seller is breaking the rules of the site, notify the site administrator.
Back to top
We rented a holiday home through BookaBach but weren’t happy with the condition of the property. What are our rights?
If you are booking accommodation in New Zealand then in most cases the accommodation will be covered by the Consumer Guarantees Act and the Fair Trading Act - people who offer baches or houses for rent usually meet the definition of “being in trade”.
You also have rights under these laws in your dealings with the host site, if the site is based in New Zealand (which Bookabach is).
For more information about what your options are in this situation, visit our General problems with services page.
Back to top
I sold something on an online auction site but the buyer never paid me or came to pick it up. What are my rights?
When buying or selling via an online auction site both parties are generally expected to contact each other within a reasonable amount of time after the sale was agreed to, to complete the sale (this might be on the site’s terms and conditions).
If you have not heard from the buyer after a reasonable period of time, you might then send a final email to the buyer to say that if the buyer has not responded within a specified time frame, you will assume the sale has been cancelled and are free to sell it to someone else.
You might also consider making a claim to the Disputes Tribunal for breach of contract, if you suffered loss as a result of the sale being agreed to but not completed, and wish to claim compensation.
If you had to pay a success fee (a fee charged by the site when you successfully sell something using the site), you can also try getting the amount refunded by contacting the auction site to explain the situation.
Back to top
An online private sale went wrong and I want to make a claim at the Disputes Tribunal. How can I get the seller’s name and address to put on my application?
If you have used an online auction or trading site, contact them and tell them about your situation.
For example TradeMe may provide you with the seller’s name and address if you can give them a statutory declaration which states your reason for wanting this information.