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Traders or Non-Traders


Various laws concerning the sale of goods govern how traders conduct their business. Some of these laws apply to persons who are not traders but still sell goods.

When does the law consider you to be a trader?

This list is not exhaustive but gives examples of when you may be deemed a trader by law:
  • If the goods you are selling aren’t your personal property and you buy goods for the purpose of re-selling, for example from newspaper adverts or a cash and carry.
  • If you sell goods at car boot sales regularly - once every couple of months or more, you are likely to be considered a trader even if car boot sales are not a major source of income.
  • If you employ anyone to help you with sales .
  • If you sell similar goods at a number of venues, for example, markets, in the street or from home

Traders and the Law

Business Names Act

If you don't trade under your own name but under a business name such as "Anytown Fruits", you must display clearly your name and address where legal documents could be sent to you.

Consumer Protection Act


Take great care that everything you sell is safe. Be particularly careful with toys, electrical goods, upholstered furniture and clothing, especially nightwear.


Where you show a price for goods, it is an offence to charge a buyer more. It is also illegal to mislead buyers in other ways about the price of goods, for example by using price comparisons or 'sale' signs when the higher price you quote in comparisons is unfair or meaningless.

Fair Trading Act

It is an offence to display any sign which tries to limit a buyer's rights. Do not use signs like 'No Refunds' or 'Sold as Seen'. As well as being illegal, these signs do not, in fact, limit buyers' rights at all. 

Price Marking Order

Traders must show a price in writing for all goods offered for sale. This can be attached to the goods or be placed adjacent to them. 

The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations

A general duty to trade fairly with consumers came into effect on 26 May 2008.  If a trader misleads, behaves aggressively, or otherwise acts unfairly towards consumers, then the trader is likely to be in breach of these regulations and may face action by Trading Standards or other enforcement authorities. This could include both civil and criminal enforcement action. 

Similar regulations apply to traders who give false or misleading information to other traders.

Video Recordings Act

Selling films which have not been properly classified by the British Board of Film Classification can attract fines of up to £20,000 per tape or a prison sentence. Certain educational, sport and music videos are exempt from this requirement. You are advised to take more detailed advice on the Video Recordings Act before putting video films out for sale. 

Sale and Supply of Goods Act

If you sell something, whether it is new or secondhand, it should be of satisfactory quality and fit for its purpose. It should also be as you describe it. 

If you sell something which does not meet these requirements, your customer has a right to a refund provided they reject goods promptly. The customer may agree to a replacement, but their right is to a refund, and as a trader you should be ready to honour this right. If you are selling something with defects, you can only escape your obligation to provide a refund if you point out the fault at the time of the sale. Doing this doesn't protect you from a claim if the item has further faults.

Unlike the other Acts mentioned, you cannot be prosecuted by Trading Standards for breaking the Act, but you could be sued by your customers.


If you are a genuine 'non-trader' seller, you will be largely outside the controls of consumer law, but there are exceptions. For example, if you describe goods in any way, and that description proves to be false, you will be obliged to give a refund.

There are things you can do to help to avoid problems and which we recommend as 'good practice' during private sales of the following items:

Electrical Goods

We advise consumers to avoid purchasing certain items at car boot sales, such as electric fires and irons, so unless the item has a reputable recent source, we would caution against its sale.


Nightwear may not meet the flammability requirements that apply to nightwear sold by traders. Childrens' coats with hood-cords can also pose a hazard so beware of selling these if their source and safety is uncertain.


Examine toys to make sure there are no sharp points or small parts that can be pulled off. Put the toy in a skip rather than a sale if it is in bad shape, damaged or very old. If you still have packaging, sell the toy in it.

Other Danger Areas

Caution should be exercised in the sale of prams and pushchairs, paraffin heaters and oil heaters. All of them have their own safety standards when sold by traders and you should have them checked carefully before you even think about selling them.

Whether you are a regular trader or not, you should be ready to co-operate with Trading Standards Officers who may visit car boot sales at any time to carry out inspections, give advice and investigate complaints.

All initial enquiries to Bolton Trading Standards are taken by the Citizens Advice consumer helpline

Telephone 03454 04 05 06

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