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Our Advice Sheets

Do you sell at car boot sales?

If you sell at car boot sales this information will help you decide whether or not you are a 'trader' and, if so, what you must do to comply with the law. It is also designed to help genuine private sellers decide what they should and should not sell.

There is no consensus among local authorities as to how car boot sales should be classified, but in some areas councils impose the normal conditions attached to market licences. Some will permit car boot sales only if the proceeds are going to charity as opposed to benefiting commercial enterprises. Other authorities permit only a small number of sales per year. Therefore, as a participant, your behaviour may positively or adversely affect the view of authorities to grant future licences to car boot sale organisers, so be responsible about noise, litter and traffic, as well as your conduct towards customers at the sale.

In the guide
PART 1 - TRADERS
Indicating who you are
Requirements when selling goods
General duty to trade fairly
Safety of goods
Pricing of goods
Consumers' rights
Food items
Descriptions of goods and counterfeits
Misrepesentation
PART 2 - IF YOU ARE NOT A TRADER
Electrical goods
Food
Clothes
Toys
Cosmetic products
PART 3 - OTHER DANGER AREAS
Receipts
Stolen goods
Toy and ball bearing ('bb') guns

PART 1 - TRADERS
Most people who sell at boot sales probably don't consider themselves to be in trade, despite perhaps selling at such sales several times a year.

So, when does the law consider you a trader? There is no hard and fast rule, but ask yourself the following questions:

- Are the goods you are selling your personal property? If not, and you buy goods specially to resell - for example, from auction websites, newspaper adverts or a cash and carry - you are very likely to be a trader

- Do you attend boot sales regularly, once every couple of months or more? If so, you are likely to be a trader even if boot sales are not a major source of income

- Do you employ anyone to help you with sales? If so, you are probably a trader

- Do you sell similar goods at other venues - for example, markets, in the street or from home? If so, you are almost certainly a trader

- How much of your income is derived from participation in car boot sales and for what percentage of your income does it account?

Indicating who you are
Part 41 of the Companies Act 2006 states that if you do not trade under your own name, you must clearly display your name and an address to which legal documents can be sent. These requirements also apply to receipts, invoices, orders and correspondence issued in the course of your business. You may feel uneasy about providing customers with this information, but if you do not provide it you will be in breach of the legislation and liable for penalties imposed if a trading standards service takes formal action. For more advice, please see our leaflet 'Company and business names'.

In addition the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 require that, in many circumstances, even if you are trading under your own name, you may still be required to give details of your identity and geographical address if this information would affect the purchasing decision of the customer.

Requirements when selling goods
The Sale of Goods Act 1979 (as amended by the Sale and Supply of Goods to Consumers Regulations 2002) requires that if you sell something, whether new or second-hand, it should be of a satisfactory quality, as described and fit for its purpose. This is subject to some qualification - for example, if it is an antique and it is being purchased for its aesthetic value rather than its functionality.

If you sell something that does not meet these requirements, your customer has a right to a refund provided they reject the goods promptly. However, if there is a problem with the goods it is presumed that the trader is at fault for the first six months after purchase, so you will still be liable to replace the item, have it repaired or provide a partial refund during this period. After the six months is up, the consumer may still have an arguable case if they can prove to you your goods were intrinsically faulty.

As a trader, you should be ready to honour these rights. If you are selling something with defects, you can only escape your obligation to provide these remedies if you point out the faults at the time of sale. However, doing this does not protect you from a claim if the item has further faults. Your obligations here are civil, to the customer, rather than criminal but, under the Enterprise Act 2002, trading standards professionals and the Office of Fair Trading can apply to the civil courts for an enforcement order preventing you from breaching the civil law.

For further information see our leaflet 'A trader's guide to the civil law relating to the sale and supply of goods'.

General duty to trade fairly
There is a general duty not to trade unfairly, which was introduced with the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. If you do anything that is unfair, and that would affect the consumer's transactional decision - for example, to purchase, or to not attempt to get their money back - then you could be breaching the law.

See our leaflet 'A guide to the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations' for more information.

Safety of goods
The Consumer Protection Act 1987 and the General Product Safety Regulations 2005 require all goods sold to be safe. You should be particularly careful with toys, electrical goods, cosmetics, upholstered furniture and clothing (particularly nightwear). See the leaflets in the 'safety' section for more product-specific information.

Pricing of goods
The Price Marking Order 2004 requires you to show a price in writing for all goods offered for sale (sales by auction or sales of works of art and antiques are not included). Price indications can be attached to the goods, or placed adjacent to them.

The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 state that you should not indicate price in a manner that is misleading, either through the way in which it is given (because it is false or deceptive) or by omitting information about the price that the consumer needs to know (such as a compulsory delivery charge) if this would affect the customer's decision to buy. You should therefore not use price comparisons or 'sale' signs when the higher price you quote in comparisons is unfair or meaningless, for example.

Note that, while it is in the nature of the market place to barter, the law does not allow you to mislead customers about the price of the goods you sell. In addition you should consult the Pricing Practices Guide published by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

Consumers' rights
The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 state that you must not restrict, or appear to restrict, a consumer's rights in any way. You should therefore not display any signs such as 'NO REFUNDS' or 'SOLD AS SEEN', which would appear to affect the consumer's statutory rights. If you put such a phrase on a receipt, this will not affect your obligations to consumers and they will still be entitled to redress in the event of faulty or misdescribed goods.

Food items
EU Regulation (EC) No 178/2002 laying down the general principles and requirements of food law, establishing the European Food Safety Authority and laying down procedures in matters of food safety specifies that food must be safe, in other words it must not be injurious to health or unfit human consumption. Labelling, advertising and presentation of food must not mislead consumers. Food businesses must be able to identify the businesses from whom they have obtained food, ingredients and the businesses they have supplied with products, and produce this information on demand. Unsafe food must be withdrawn from sale or recalled from consumers if it has already been sold.

There are rules that govern the labelling and composition of food under the Food Safety Act 1990, and you must ensure that you have checked that food is properly labelled (see our leaflet 'Food labelling - date and lot marking of packaged food') and of the right quality. Fines for selling food that contravenes these requirements can be high. There are also controls on hygiene and food that is unfit to eat.

If you sell food you are required to register with your local environmental health service.

Descriptions of goods and counterfeits
It is a breach of contract if goods are misdescribed - Sale of Goods Act 1979 (as amended by Sale and Supply of Goods to Consumers Regulations 2002). It is also a breach of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 to mislead consumers with regard to the description of goods.

Before selling recorded or branded items such as CDs, DVDs/Blu-rays, video games or t-shirts, satisfy yourself that they are not counterfeit because heavy penalties can be imposed on anyone who breaches copyright and trade mark laws (Trade Marks Act 1994).

As well as possible offences under the Trade Marks Act 1994, if the marketing of the products you sell could cause confusion with a competitor's product (through the use of trade marks, trade names, or other distinguishing marks of a competitor) and, by misleading the customer, you cause him to buy something he would not otherwise have bought then there would also be a breach of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.

Selling films on video or DVD is risky because the sale of films that have not been properly classified by the British Board of Film Classification can attract fines of up to £20,000 per film or a prison sentence under the Video Recordings Act 1984. You are strongly advised to take more detailed advice on the Video Recordings Act 1984 before putting video recordings out for sale. See our leaflet 'Video recordings and games for sale and hire'.  

Don't be fooled into selling fake copies of music or films by the seeming informality of the setting. Even if it was not you who copied from the original, the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 provides for secondary infringement so long as you are benefiting from the exercise commercially and you know or have reason to believe that copyright had been infringed.

Misrepesentation
Under the Misrepresentation Act 1967 any false claims about the quality, origin, authenticity of the goods sold may amount to a misrepresentation and would entitle the customer to sue you in the civil courts.

PART 2 - IF YOU ARE NOT A TRADER
If you are a genuine 'non-trader' seller, you will be largely outside the controls of consumer law, but there are exceptions - for example, if you describe goods in any way and that description proves to be false, you will be obliged to give a refund or replacement or reduce the price to reflect the misdescription or misrepresentation. There is also the possibility that a customer may have a civil claim against you if he or she is injured or property is damaged as a result of your negligence.

However, there are things you can do that will help avoid problems and that are recommended as 'good practice' during private sales. These are as follows:

Electrical goods
We advise consumers not to buy items such as electric fires, electric blankets and irons at boot sales. So unless the item has a reputable recent source, we would caution strongly against its sale.

Food
Boot sales are not the place to try to get rid of those unwanted tins and packets lurking in the back of your food cupboards. The three types of date marking stated in the legislation ( 'use by', 'best before, and 'best before end') are quality indications used by manufacturers to indicate that the food will be at its best before a certain point or date, assuming correct storage has been maintained. A seller may commit an offence if the food deteriorates significantly to the point where it may become unfit for human consumption. See our leaflet 'Food labelling - date and lot marking of packaged food' for further details.

Clothes
Think twice before selling nightwear as it may not meet flammability requirements that apply to nightwear sold by traders. Children's coats with hood cords can also pose a hazard, so beware of selling these items if their source and/or safety are uncertain.

Toys
Check toys to make sure there are no sharp points or small parts that can be pulled off. Put the toy in a skip rather than a sale if it is in bad shape or very old. It will assist you if you still have the packaging, as instructions on usage, or intended age of the user, can then be provided to the purchaser.

Cosmetic products
Some ingredients are regulated and, if seals are not intact, the items can become contaminated. There are many controls over what can and cannot be sold. See our leaflet 'Cosmetic products - safety, composition and labelling' or contact your local trading standards service for more information.

PART 3 - OTHER DANGER AREAS
Caution should be exercised in the sale of the types of goods listed below. All of them have their own safety standards when sold by traders and you should have them checked carefully before you even think about selling them:

  • prams and pushchairs
  • paraffin heaters
  • oil heaters

Receipts
There is a general misconception among the public that a trader must provide a receipt for purchases. This is a convention - even good practice - but not a legal requirement. Of course, if you are a trader, it never hurts to try to please the customer, but you are not obliged to comply. However, it may help you to keep a detailed log, so you can submit reliable records to the Inland Revenue.

Stolen goods
Handling stolen goods can attract greater penalties than the theft. If you sell stolen goods, the buyer is entitled to their money back from you, not the thief.

In your own interest, when buying goods, ask for a receipt and proper identification, note the seller's vehicle number and contact the nearest police station if you are suspicious.

Beware of popular items of stolen property, especially garden equipment, power tools and mountain bikes.

Toy and ball bearing ('bb') guns
Whether you are buying or selling toy or imitation firearms, you need to make sure that you do so responsibly. The Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006 and supporting regulations make it an offence to sell an 'imitation firearm' to a person under 18 and for a person under 18 to buy one.

Apart from a few exceptions, it is also an offence to sell 'realistic imitation firearms'. Those guns that are obviously toys - for example, due to their unrealistic look or size - can still be sold with no restrictions. If you are unsure about any gun you wish to sell, you should seek further advice from the police.

Please note
This leaflet is not an authoritative interpretation of the law and is intended only for guidance. Any legislation referred to, while still current, may have been amended from the form in which it was originally enacted. Please contact us for further information.

Relevant legislation
Misrepresentation Act 1967
Sale of Goods Act 1979
Video Recordings Act 1984
Consumer Protection Act 1987
Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988
Food Safety Act 1990
Trade Marks Act 1994
Enterprise Act 2002
Sale and Supply of Goods to Consumers Regulations 2002
EU Regulation (EC) No 178/2002 laying down the general principles and requirements of food law, establishing the European Food Safety Authority and laying down procedures in matters of food safety
Price Marking Order 2004
General Product Safety Regulations 2005
Companies Act 2006
Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006
Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008
Video Recordings Act 2010

Last reviewed/updated: November 2013

       

 

 
 

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This page was last edited on 14/01/13