Who is a trader?

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, eg 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, eg 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.

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.