Your rights when buying from a dealer or online trader, including Trade Me. These rights depend on whether the seller is in trade, or a private seller.

When you buy something privately, you have fewer rights than when you buy something from a business.

If you buy second-hand products from an online business or second-hand dealer, your rights are the same as when buying new, but you can't expect the same quality.

Before you buy

Private sales can be made several ways, including online through Trade Me or Facebook, at auctions, through classified ads and at fairs. You have limited rights if the products are faulty or not as described.

Examine the items carefully. You buy second-hand products ‘as seen’, including any flaws or wear and tear. Ask the seller to point out any damage or faults. It is a good idea to get a receipt from the seller and record anything they tell you about the item.

Before you buy or sell, consider:

  • you will not be protected by the Consumer Guarantees Act
  • there are risks to your safety when dealing with strangers and you may be purchasing stolen property or property that has money still owing on it
  • there is a risk of being targeted by scammers, e.g., online shopping scams through fake social media ads, or advance payment and advance fee scams - when a scammer will take an interest in an advert to trick money out of the person who listed it.

Avoiding scams

It is also a good idea to:

  • see if the products have a current manufacturer’s warranty that you can take over
  • ask questions about the product’s age, any wear and tear or faults — keep a copy of the seller's answers
  • ask the seller if they kept the original receipt or a copy of it
  • get an independent expert to check out any big items, e.g., a mechanic to look over a car
  • search for money owing on the item on the Personal Property Securities Register (PPSR).

Make sure you also have the seller's name, phone number and address. Without their name and address, you can’t claim against them in the Disputes Tribunal if things go wrong.

Searching the Personal Properties Securities Register (PPSR)

The PPSR tells you if there is money owing on an item (also called a registered security interest) before you buy it. If the seller still owes money on it, it could be repossessed from you.

Search the PPSR by the seller’s name. For vehicles, you can also search by number plate (registration number), vehicle identification number (VIN) and chassis number.

Searching the PPSR(external link) — Companies Office

Security interests include:

  • hire purchase agreements
  • long-term leases over more than a year
  • loans with personal property as security, e.g., car loans.

If there is a registered security interest on the PPSR, go back to the seller and get them to pay the money owing to clear the debt.

Aria's story — Money owing

Aria buys a used Mazda car for $5,000 from a local dealer who is selling on behalf of the private owner. The consumer information notice does not show any money owing. A month later, a repossession agent comes knocking on her door to claim the vehicle on behalf of a finance company. Aria checks the PPSR register and finds out the finance company does have a registered security interest over the car, so they can legally take the car. Aria will have to go back to the dealer to get her money back as dealers are legally responsible for checking the consumer information notice is correct.

Woman smiles at toddler sitting in washing basket

Your rights when buying privately

Generally, when you buy products or services privately you can’t cancel the contract easily and you have limited legal rights. Private sales aren’t covered by the Consumer Guarantees Act or the Fair Trading Act.

You do have rights if:

  • the seller misled you
  • they don’t have a right to sell the products
  • the item is seriously faulty or unsafe.

Remedies under the Contract and Commercial Law Act

The product must:

  • match either the sample shown, or the description given by the seller
  • be sold at a reasonable price if this has not been agreed beforehand
  • be sent within a reasonable time if no timeframe was agreed beforehand and delivery is part of the sales contract.

The seller also must have good title, which means the right to sell those products.

If not, you may be able to get a full or partial refund or compensation under the warranties in the Contract and Commercial Law Act (CCLA). Your choice of remedy depends on how serious the problem is.

If you are entitled to a refund, it should be in cash (not a credit note). You can choose to accept a replacement or repair instead of a refund or compensation.

But a seller can also state that the CCLA doesn’t apply. They can state this in the contract at the time of sale or in the website terms and conditions. Look out for a written statement that says ‘No other warranties either express or implied by law are made with respect to these products’.

False or misleading statements by the seller

If a seller makes a false or misleading statement, you can cancel the contract or claim compensation under the CCLA if:

  • the false or misleading statement was serious
  • you were persuaded to buy the products based on the statement.

However, the contract can state that there will be a different remedy for misrepresentation.

Misleading prices or advertising

If the seller has contracted out of the CCLA, the contract needs to include a statement on a remedy for misrepresentation.

Electrical appliances and other regulated products

Under the Electricity Act, electrical appliances must be safe even when sold second-hand by a private seller. Get them checked out by an expert or qualified person if you can.

Also, some regulated products, even if they're second-hand, must comply with Product Safety Standards and Unsafe Goods Notices under the Fair Trading Act.

Product safety

Making a claim for breach of contract

If the agreed contract is breached, you may be able to make a claim to the Disputes Tribunal under the common law rules for contracts. For example, if you bought a car privately and as part of the deal the seller agreed to give you a spare set of four tyres, but then didn't provide them, you could make a claim to the Disputes Tribunal, who might order the seller to provide the money for the tyres.

Contracts and sales agreements

Money owing

If you bought something and the seller still owes money on it, the creditor may be able to repossess the products if:

  • the item was worth more than $2,000 when the seller originally bought it or used it as security to take out a loan
  • you knew about the security interest when you bought the products.

If the creditor does repossess and sell the products, you may be able to make a claim against the seller for a breach of the CCLA, if you were not told about the security interest.

Jack's story — Fake goods

Mark is selling his smartphone on social media and describes it as a popular and expensive brand. Jack buys the phone for $300 but finds out when he gets it that it is a counterfeit brand. As Jack was misled, he can cancel the sale and ask for a refund from Mark directly. If he has no success, he can make a claim to the Disputes Tribunal, if he has all of Mark's contact details.

Man smiles at another person while using laptop

Your rights when buying second-hand from a trader

Under the Consumer Guarantees Act (CGA), you have more legal rights if you buy from a second-hand dealer or a charity shop than if you buy from a private seller. However, if a charity gives you items for your benefit, e.g., food from a food bank, then you are not covered by the CGA guarantees.

Anyone in business who deals in second-hand products or scrap metal must be licensed, apart from charity shops. To find out if a business has a licence, check the public register of the Licensing Authority of Second-hand Dealers and Pawnbrokers.

Licensing Authority of Second-hand Dealers and Pawnbrokers(external link) — Ministry of Justice

You can expect any second-hand products to:

  • be fit for purpose
  • be safe
  • be free from defects
  • look acceptable
  • last for a reasonable amount of time.

But you can’t expect them to be the same as new products. Whether they are of acceptable quality depends on how much you paid for the products, what you were told about them, and their general wear and tear.

If the item turns out to be faulty, you have the right to return it to the shop where you bought it and ask for a replacement, a repair, or a refund.

If you were misled by false information, you also have the right to cancel or vary the contract and claim compensation under the Fair Trading Act.

Faulty products

Example — Unsafe products from a charity shop

Saji buys an electrical toaster from a charity shop for home. A few weeks later it catches fire. Saji is able to get a refund from the charity shop, as the toaster was unsafe.

If things go wrong

If you have a problem with any second-hand products, your rights depend on whether you bought the products from a private seller or a second-hand dealer.

If you bought from a second-hand dealer — you may have rights for repairs, replacement or a refund under the Consumer Guarantees Act or compensation under the Fair Trading Act.

If you bought privately — you may have rights to cancel the sale and/or get damages under the Contract and Commercial Law Act.

If you bought from a website like Trade Me or Facebook — use the site's disputes process, and leave feedback on the seller.

If you have given money to an online marketplace scam, stop all contact with the scammer, contact your bank or the institution you sent money through, and report the scam to Cert.

For more tips on scams: Types of scams

Try to agree an outcome with the second-hand dealer or private seller first. If you can't agree, and want to take it further, make a claim with the Disputes Tribunal.

About the tribunal(external link) — Disputes Tribunal

More help

Get support at any point from:

  • Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) — a free, independent service, run by volunteers. CAB can advise you on your consumer rights and obligations, in person, by phone, or online.
  • Community Law Centre — free one-on-one legal advice to people with limited finances. The organisation has 24 community law centres throughout the country. You can find legal information and other resources on its website.

Find a CAB(external link) — Citizens Advice Bureau

Our law centres(external link) — Community Law Centres