In today’s digital age, the ease of buying and selling items privately, whether through online marketplaces or classified ads, has become a common practice. However, there are situations where you may have paid for an item privately and, to your disappointment, never received it. If you find yourself in this predicament, it’s important to know your rights and potential remedies under UK law. In this blog, we’ll explore the legal options available to you when a privately purchased item doesn’t arrive as expected.

  1. The Importance of a Written Agreement

In many private sales, especially when buying from individuals rather than businesses, there may not be a formal contract in place. However, it’s crucial to maintain a written record of the transaction. This can include emails, text messages, or other forms of communication that confirm the details of the agreement, including the price, item description, and any agreed-upon delivery arrangements.

  1. Sale of Goods Act 1979 (Consumer Rights Act 2015)

Under UK law, when you purchase an item privately, the Sale of Goods Act 1979 (now incorporated into the Consumer Rights Act 2015) provides protection for consumers. This legislation requires that the item you purchase must be:

– As described: The item should match the description provided by the seller.

– Of satisfactory quality: The item should be of reasonable quality and free from defects.

– Fit for purpose: The item should be suitable for the purpose you discussed with the seller.

If the item you’ve paid for doesn’t meet these criteria, you may have legal grounds for a refund or compensation.

  1. Resolving the Issue Amicably

Before pursuing legal action, it’s often advisable to attempt an amicable resolution with the seller. Communicate the issue, express your concerns, and request a resolution, such as a refund or the delivery of the item. A polite and professional approach can sometimes lead to a mutually beneficial solution.

  1. The Small Claims Court

If you’ve exhausted all avenues for an amicable resolution and the seller remains uncooperative, you may consider taking your case to the Small Claims Court. This is a cost-effective way to pursue your rights without the need for a solicitor, making it accessible to individuals.

To do this:

– Ensure that the item’s value does not exceed the maximum limit for small claims court (usually £10,000).

– File a claim through the government’s Money Claim Online service.

– Present your evidence, including any written agreements and communication with the seller.

If the court rules in your favour, you may be entitled to a refund or compensation.

  1. Online Marketplaces and Payment Services

If you made the purchase through an online marketplace or used a payment service like PayPal, be aware that they often have buyer protection programs. These services may offer avenues to resolve disputes and recover your funds.

  1. Learning from the Experience

While it can be frustrating and disheartening when a privately purchased item doesn’t arrive as expected, you can take steps to protect yourself in future transactions:

– Always maintain a written record of the transaction.

– Use secure payment methods.

– Read and understand the terms and conditions of the platform through which you’re making the purchase.

– Be cautious of deals that seem too good to be true, and do your research on the seller.


When buying items privately in the UK, it’s essential to be aware of your rights and the legal recourse available if the item you’ve paid for doesn’t arrive as promised. By understanding the Sale of Goods Act 1979 (Consumer Rights Act 2015), attempting amicable resolutions, and knowing the options for legal recourse, you can protect your interests and ensure a fair outcome in your transaction disputes. As always, consult with one of our experienced solicitors for advice specific to your situation on 0161 850 9911. We are also able to undertake your claim in the small claims court on your behalf to save you all of the trouble and uncertainty.