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Q: I am looking to buy a new horse, but am feeling slightly apprehensive about the whole process, having read stories of “dodgy dealers” and unsuitable horses being misrepresented.

I understand the Sale of Goods Act is there to help people like me, but how could it help?

Does it cover horses sold on behalf of someone else?
SG, Worcestershire

According to Sarah Webb from solicitors Russell Jones & Walker, it is important to remember that the Sale of Goods Act 1979 only applies to a sale where the seller is “acting in the course of business”, such as a horse dealer.

The majority of one-off private horses for sale, where owners have outgrown their horses or are selling them for some other non-business reason, will not be covered by the act.

“For a sale to be in the course of business, it does not mean that the seller must necessarily be a horse dealer,” said Sarah.

“A person who sells with ‘some degree of professionalism and regularity’ can be acting in the course of business. A horse bought to bring on to sell could be described as in the course of business. Unfortunately, the answer will turn on the facts of each case.

“Obviously, a stud selling horses would be acting in the course of business, but somebody who bought a horse as a youngster, competed it for a number of years themselves and then sold it on probably would not, as it would be difficult to show regularity and that the primary purpose was business other than training and competing the horse,” she explained.

“Once you have established the sale is in the course of business, then you can rely on the important aspect of the act – that the goods must be reasonably fit for the purpose for which they are intended, provided that purpose is made known to the seller, must be of satisfactory quality and must comply with any description given of them to the buyer.”

If goods are sold by an agent and if the agent is selling in the course of business, then the provision of the act will apply – unless the seller, on whose behalf the agent is acting, is not acting in the course of business and the buyer knows that at the time of the sale, or the seller takes reasonable steps to make it known to the buyer at the time of the sale.

“This is important as obviously horses can often be sold through agents on behalf of an individual who would not normally be covered by the act,” said Sarah.

Information

Russell Jones & Walker, tel: 0800 9169015 www.rjw.co.uk

This article was first published in Horse & Hound (4 December, ’08)

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