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Information for business sellers

Find out more about your legal obligations as a business seller:

Note: This page is for informational purposes and only applies to sellers based in the Republic of Ireland. If you're based outside the Republic of Ireland, different rules are likely to apply. This page is not intended to be legal advice. If you're unclear about how any of these laws apply to you, please seek advice from a lawyer or similar professional. 

Listings, items and the law

This section is a brief introduction to the most important rules and regulations relating to the goods you intend to sell and the information you're legally obliged to give to people when you advertise those goods for sale (for example on eBay).

You should tell eBay if you're operating as a business

You should register as an eBay business if you:

  • sell items that you have bought to resell

  • make items yourself and sell them, intending to make a profit

  • are a Trading Assistant

  • buy items for your business

The Unfair Commercial Practices Directive, implemented in Ireland by the Consumer Protection Act 2007, makes it an offence in Ireland for a business to falsely represent itself as a private individual. So if you are misleading potential buyers into thinking that you are a private individual when you are in fact a business seller (ie: by not registering as a business seller with eBay), you'll be breaking the law.

Find out more about why you should register as a business.

It's your responsibility to ensure your goods are of satisfactory quality, as described and fit for purpose - Sale of Goods Legislation

The most important piece of legislation in Ireland relating to the sale of goods through eBay is the Sale of Goods Acts 1893 and 1980 (as amended).

The Sales of Goods Acts provide that wherever goods are bought they must "conform to contract". This means that items sold by eBay by business sellers to non-business consumers must be:

  • of "merchantable quality";

  • "as described"; and

  • "fit for purpose" (where the purpose intended by the buyer is made known to the seller).

Therefore, goods sold by business sellers to consumers must not be inherently faulty at the time of sale, must match any description given to them and, allowing for factors like price, they must be fit for their purpose, defect free (or if there are defects, they need to be brought to the buyers attention prior to the sale), safe and durable.

When considering whether goods are "fit for purpose", it's not only the obvious purpose of the goods that will be applicable. If you told the buyer that the goods will be suitable for a specific purpose (for example, "is suitable for wet conditions"), this purpose will also be relevant.

The Sales of Goods Acts apply to both new and used items. It is worth bearing in mind that second-hand goods are likely to be judged less rigorously than new goods as it's not reasonable to expect that used goods will be of the same quality as new goods. In any event, sellers of second-hand goods are obliged to ensure that the goods they sell are as they described them. 

Resources:

National Consumer Agency's (the “NCA”) guide to the Sale of Goods Acts

You must include information about your business in your listings – Electronic Commerce Regulations and Distance Selling Regulations

Under the European Communities (Directive 2000/31/EC) Regulations 2003 you must provide the following information in the Business Seller Information section of your listings:

  • full contact details for your business;

  • details of any relevant trade organisations to which you belong;

  • details of any authorisation scheme relevant to your online business;

  • clear indications of price, if relevant, including any delivery or tax charges and

  • your VAT number, if your online activities are subject to VAT.

Make sure your listings are not misleading – Unfair Commercial Practices Directive

Always include the correct pricing information – Consumer Protection Act. Find out more about rules on pricing.

The Consumer Protection Act 2007 implements the EU's Unfair Commercial Practices Directive and prohibits businesses from treating consumers unfairly. It obliges businesses not to use:

  • aggressive practices (such as pressure selling); or

  • misleading practices (includes both acts and omissions).

One of the key tests in the regulations is whether the unfair commercial practice in question materially distorts the consumer's economic behaviour (e.g. was the consumer persuaded to make a purchase they wouldn't otherwise have made because of the commercial practice?).The Consumer Protection Act 2007 provides for some other enforcement mechanisms to be available to the NCA. If the NCA considers that there is a case for looking for an injunction or a prohibition order against a trader, it may (as a first step) accept a written undertaking from the trader. If the trader fails to comply with the undertaking, then the NCA may look for a prohibition order. The NCA may serve a compliance notice on a trader whom it considers to have engaged in a prohibited activity. The trader has 14 days in which to appeal the notice. If the trader fails to comply, the NCA may take criminal proceedings.

Returns and the law

This section provides answers to the more commonly-asked questions relating to returns and warranties you offer to consumer (non-business) buyers, for example when you sell on eBay.

1) Do I have to provide a refund if the buyer changes their mind?

Under the EC Protection Of Consumers In Respect Of Contracts Made By Means Of Distance Communications Regulations 2001 (the “Distance Selling Regulations”) you have to refund an item if the buyer changes their mind within 7 working days of the day on which the item was delivered. However, whether the Distance Selling Regulations apply depends on the type of item sold and the listing format used (see "Where do the Distance Selling Regulations apply", below).

Under the Distance Selling Regulations, buyers have a period of 7 working days from the date of delivery within which they can cancel the contract (often referred to as the "cooling off" period) and get their money back, including the original postage and packing charges (unless you clearly informed the buyer, before the contract was made, that they'd have to meet postage and packing charges on cancellation). The only cost the consumer must pay is the cost of returning the good(s).

You can specify the returns time frame and who pays for return postage when you create your returns policy. Please note that the minimum time frame for returns on eBay is 14 days. We've chosen this because a 14-day returns period will be required when changes to Irish diatance selling regulations come into effect in June 2014.

If you didn't provide information about your business required under the Distance Selling Regulations, the buyer has up to 3 months to cancel the contract and get their money back. To get a general idea of the laws governing distance sales, we recommend that you review the summary of the Distance Selling Regulations published by the National Consumer Agency (NCA).

2) Where do the Distance Selling Regulations apply?

The Distance Selling Regulations generally apply to sales to non-business buyers made by sellers acting in the course of a business, which have been made at a distance. In other words, where there is no face-to-face contact between the seller and the buyer before the contract is made. The Distance Selling Regulations usually cover sales made over the internet, including:

  • Buy it now listings on eBay.ie

  • Second Chance Offers on eBay.ie

The Distance Selling Regulations do not apply to eBay auction format listings on eBay.ie, and do not apply to all types of items.

3) Do I have to refund a buyer if the item is faulty or damaged?

The answer to this question relates to the Sale of Goods Acts 1893 and 1980 (as amended). The Sales of Goods Acts provide that items sold by eBay by business sellers to non-business consumers must be:

  • of "merchantable quality";

  • "as described"; and

  • "fit for purpose".

If an item you sell doesn't conform to these criteria, the buyer has the right to request money back within a "reasonable time". What is considered a "reasonable time" varies from item to item. For example, a pair of skis is unlikely to be used straight away, so a "reasonable time" is likely to be longer than for an item normally used on a daily basis. Other factors may also affect what is defined as a "reasonable time" for specific items.

The EC (Certain Aspects of the Sale of Consumer Goods and Associated Guarantees) Regulations 2003 give consumers a right to a repair or replacement where goods turn out to be faulty.

The Liability for Defective Products Act 1991 (the "1991 Act") gives consumers the right to sue the producer, importer or own-brander of a defective product for damages in respect of death, injury or damage to property caused wholly or partly by the product regardless of whether or not the producer was negligent in causing the damage. Please be aware that you'll also be liable if you fail to identify the producer when asked to do so by the person suffering damage.

For a more detailed description of consumers' statutory rights, see Shopping online by the NCA. We recommend you access professional advice on your minimum legal obligations, then create a returns policy around those minimum obligations that provides a level of customer service you feel your business should provide.

4) Do I have to replace or refund an item that gets lost or damaged in the post?

When a business sells an item to a consumer, the default position is that any loss or damage to the item that occurs in transit is the responsibility of the business. This means that you are likely to be required to replace items lost or damaged in the post.

Most eBay business sellers choose to replace lost and damaged items as a matter of course, using insured postage services where cost effective. However, if you'd like to know the precise legal position on loss and damage in transit as it relates to your business, we recommend you seek advice from a lawyer or similar professional.

5) Do I have to provide a warranty?

You don't legally have to provide a warranty, but if you choose to offer one voluntarily it will be legally binding. You may find that providing a warranty helps a buyer to choose to buy from you rather than another seller. Remember that even if a warranty has expired, you may still have obligations under the Sale of Goods Acts and related legislation.

6) What if I provide a service?

Consumers are also protected in relation to their purchase of services. The most important law covering the supply of services is the Sale of Goods and Supply of Services Act 1980 (as amended).

When it comes to the supply of services, tradesmen and professionals are required to carry out that service with reasonable care and skill and within a reasonable time. Similarly, if not explicitly agreed between the parties, the law will imply that any goods and materials supplied must be of merchantable quality and at a reasonable cost.

Resources:

Services and Contracts on the NCA website.

Further information about consumers' legal rights

In addition, if you are a business selling to consumers you should be aware of consumers' legal rights.

For more help, see the information on the NCA website about consumers’ legal rights.

Tax

Value Added Tax, or VAT, is a tax charged on most supplies of goods or services in the European Union.

Find out more about VAT and your eBay fees.

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