As a solicitor reports an increase during lockdown in the number of people buying horses unseen, and then experiencing physical or behavioural issues on arrival, H&H looks into what laws apply in these circumstances
OWNERS have been reminded that although buying unseen is not recommended, they do still have rights if the horse is not as described.
Solicitor Hannah Bradley of The Equine Law Firm told H&H she has had an increase in enquiries during lockdown from people who have bought unseen. Horses have had veterinary or behavioural issues, and the new owners believed they had fewer rights as they had not seen them beforehand.
“Some people assume it’s their own fault for not going to view the horse, but the legal provisions are very different from when you go and see something. When someone hasn’t had the opportunity to inspect the horse and the trader is selling based on description, they have to make sure they give certain information and make this clear,” she said.
“The Consumer Rights Act will imply certain terms into a sale between a trader and consumer, even if the horse was not physically seen before the purchase was agreed. This is also the case even if there was no written contract of sale.”
Ms Bradley said in any sale between a dealer and buyer, the horse must be fit for purpose, of satisfactory quality and as described.
“If it is not, the consumer has the right to reject the horse and receive a refund within 30 days of delivery,” she said. “After 30 days, the consumer will have the right to a ‘replacement’ of the horse or if that is not possible, a refund,” she said.
Ms Bradley said in some circumstances buyers may have “greater” rights under distance-selling regulations; they may be entitled to a “cooling-off period”, where the buyer can cancel the contract to buy within 14 days, even if the horse does not fall foul of the Consumer Rights Act. But she added this provision will not apply to every sale and buyers should seek specialist legal advice.
Individuals should also be aware that when buying unseen from a private seller, the law differs and the provisions of the Consumer Rights Act will not apply.
“But the horse must still be in accordance with any description given, including statements made in advertisements, telephone calls and messages,” said Ms Bradley.
A spokesman for the British Horse Society (BHS) told H&H there are many considerations to be made when buying a horse, which should be thoroughly researched and not rushed into.
“The BHS strongly recommends viewing before purchasing, as this allows you to ask in-depth questions, check the horse’s health and condition, observe the horse being handled and to see if there are any signs of potential problems. Similarly, many sellers will be keen to establish the needs and circumstances of potential buyers,” said the spokesman.
“It is important to ask as many questions as possible and having a sale contract can help if a dispute arises. A sale contract should state the terms and conditions the horse was purchased under.”
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