Trading Standards advice: Second-hand sales

Second-hand sales are a popular way for schools to raise funds, but don't fall foul of legal requirements – follow this advice from the Chartered Trading Standards Institute.

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We are planning our first car boot sale, and someone has raised the issue of trademarks, copyright and trade descriptions – what do we need to know?

The legislation that applies to car boot sales generally applies to the sellers, not to the organisers, although you do have a degree of responsibility to ensure that sellers at your event do not commit any offences. Most of the Trading Standards legislation applies to traders selling goods, as opposed to members of the public who are simply having a clear-out. Decide whether to allow traders to attend, or whether to restrict the sale to members of the public selling their own belongings. Some laws which traders should consider include:

  • The Consumer Rights Act 2015 requires that all goods should be of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose and 'as described'.
  • The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 states that traders should not give false or misleading information, or omit information, and should not act 'aggressively', if any of these practices would cause the consumer to do something different. Signs such as 'Sold as seen' or 'No refunds' are not permitted.
  • The Consumer Protection Act 1987 and the General Product Safety Regulations 2005 require all goods sold, including second-hand goods, to be safe. In particular, there are specific safety requirements for items such as toys, cosmetics and electrical goods.
  • Under the Trade Marks Act 1994 it is an offence to sell counterfeit goods, such as DVDs, CDs, T-shirts, bags and perfumes.
  • Under the Video Recordings Act 1984 it is an offence to sell films that have not been correctly classified by the BBFC, and also to sell DVDs or video games to anyone not meeting the age on the certificate.
  • Specific legal requirements relating to the sale of food items include the need to provide allergy information (for further information, visit the Food Standards Agency website). Traders selling food may also need to register with the local Environmental Health Department. This is not an exhaustive list. Anyone considering selling goods as a trader should seek advice from their local Trading Standards office.

How do we classify who is a 'trader' or 'non-trader' and do different rules apply?

Various pieces of legislation define what is meant by the term 'trader'. The most common is 'a person acting for purposes relating to that person's trade, business, craft or profession, whether personally or through another person acting in the trader's name or on the trader's behalf'. When deciding whether someone is a trader, consider:

  • Are the goods the person is selling their own personal property? If they buy goods specifically to resell, or make goods to sell, they are likely to be a trader.
  • Do they regularly sell at car boot sales? If so, they are likely to be considered to be a trader, even if this is not their main income.
  • Do they employ someone to help them sell the goods, or do they sell similar goods at other venues (eg, markets or on auction sites)? Is the income received from selling in this way a significant proportion of their income? If so, they are likely to be a trader.
  • Whilst the majority of Trading Standards legislation applies to traders, best practice is for all sellers to follow the guidelines to ensure that all goods are correctly described and, more importantly, safe.

Our tabletop sales are really popular, so we'd like to draw up some T&Cs for stallholders. What should we include?

Ask sellers to provide their contact details in case there's a problem. Other things to include in your terms might be:

  • Time of arrival and departure, and what sellers are expected to do with their rubbish
  • The fact that any seller agrees to comply with all consumer protection legislation
  • Stolen goods may not be sold
  • Cigarettes, tobacco products, alcohol and flammable liquids may not be sold
  • No live animals may be sold
  • Sellers will not sell counterfeit items
  • You may wish to restrict the sale of electrical items to prevent fire and injury
  • Are you happy for food items to be sold? If so, make it clear that items must be within their use by/best before date and must be stored in an appropriate manner
  • No weapons, ball-bearing guns or any realistic imitation firearms may be sold.

We recently ran a car boot sale, but a customer is claiming that a CD they bought is scratched. What should we do?

The customer's rights are against the person from whom they bought the CD, not against you as the organiser. When buying second-hand, there is always a risk that items may be damaged, and there is a degree of caveat emptor – the legal term for 'buyer beware'. Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, any goods sold by a trader must be 'of satisfactory quality', and if they are not, the customer has the right to their money back (or a repair or replacement). The consumer should ask the trader for contact details. You do not have the same rights if the person selling the item was not a trader. In these circumstances, the goods must be 'as described', but there is no requirement that they should be of satisfactory quality. People should be careful when buying second-hand.

We're selling DVDs and games at our fair. Can we sell certificate 18 films as long as these aren't bought by children?

The Video Recordings Act 1984 makes it a criminal offence to sell an age-restricted product to an under-aged purchaser – that is not just certificate 18 videos, but any age-restricted DVD or computer game. Age restrictions on other items, such as spray paint, party poppers and lighter refills also apply.


More on events and activities

For more advice on selling second-hand goods, contact your local Trading Standards office.