As the changes brought about by the Consumer Rights Act 2015 (the “Act”) have now had some time to bed in, we take a look at the amended rights available to purchasers.

Background

The Act came into force on 1 October 2015 and was described by many as the biggest shake-up in consumer law in a generation. It was designed to simplify consumer law by consolidating a raft of consumer rights legislation into one Act of Parliament. This includes the provisions in the Sale of Goods Act 1979 relating to consumers.

The Act applies to all horse purchases between a trader and consumer entered into on or after 1 October 2015. For all horse purchase agreements entered into before this date the legal position under the Sale of Goods Act 1979 will continue to apply.

Consumer Position Under the Act: post 1 October 2015

Under the Act consumers are afforded certain rights if the horse purchased did not conform to the contract at the time of delivery. A horse will be deemed not to conform to the contract if any of the following terms implied by the Act into all consumer contracts entered into on after 1 October 2015 are breached:

  • the horse is of satisfactory quality;
  • the horse is reasonably fit for any particular purpose the buyer makes known to the seller they are purchasing it for; and
  • the horse will be as described.

If any of these implied terms are breached and the horse did not conform to the contract at the time of delivery the Act provides the buyer with certain rights in respect of what are essentially faulty goods.

Under the Act there is now the following tiered procedure to follow where faulty goods have been purchased:

  1. The buyer has 30 days (beginning with the first day after ownership in the horse has passed to the buyer and it has been delivered to the new owner) to reject the horse (the short-term right to reject);
  2. After the short-term right to reject has been lost the consumer must afford the seller at least one opportunity to repair or replace the horse before exercising a final right to reject it;
  3. If the seller’s attempt at repair or replacement fails, or is impossible, then the buyer can exercise a final right to reject.

A purchaser exercises either the short-term or final right to reject by indicating to the seller that they are rejecting the horse and treating the contract as at an end. This can be done orally but it must be clear enough to be understood by the seller. It is strongly recommended that the notice is given clearly in writing to avoid any dispute as to whether a proper indication has been given.

From the time when the right to reject is exercised the seller has a duty to give the buyer a refund. The buyer may also claim additional remedies, such as damages for the cost of keeping the horse (e.g. feed, shoeing, bedding, veterinary treatment, livery).

If you have purchased a ‘faulty’ horse it is important to act without delay to avoid losing or reducing the available remedies. If you exercise the short-term right to reject you can avoid having to allow the seller an opportunity to repair or replace the horse (if it would be possible to do so). Also, for the purpose of the right to have the horse repaired or replaced and exercising the final right to reject, if the horse does not conform to the contract at any time within the initial six months it will be taken not to have conformed to it on delivery. This is a useful presumption which shifts the burden to the seller to prove the horse was not in fact faulty at the time of delivery.

It is important to note that the Act provides rights in respect of goods that are faulty. It does not entitle a purchaser to reject a horse where they have simply changed their mind.

Business to Business Horse Purchases

The Act applies to consumer contracts only. If both the buyer and seller are acting in the course of a business the Sale of Goods Act 1979 continues to apply for horse purchases both before and after 1 October 2015.

Rights Against a Private Seller

The Act does not apply to sales by a private seller (i.e. someone acting for purposes that are wholly or mainly outside their trade, business, craft or profession). Neither are the terms under the Sale of Goods Act 1979 that the horse will be of satisfactory quality and fit for purpose implied into the contract. The latin maxim “Caveat Emptor” (“Let the Buyer Beware”) will apply.

Instead, the purchaser is likely to have to bring a claim for misrepresentation.

Importance of Taking Legal Advice

If you have sold or purchased a horse and a dispute has arisen, then please do not hesitate to contact us. We are specialist equine solicitors well placed to resolve your dispute as swiftly and cost-effectively as possible.

Note: Every purchase of a horse is different and has its own unique factors. Reliance should not be placed on this article in substitution for taking legal advice specific to your particular circumstances.