Buying from a private seller

When a consumer buys from a private individual seller who is not running a business, this is called a consumer-to-consumer transaction. Examples include a person selling:

  • toys at a market
  • books on a notice board sign
  • secondhand goods from an online auction site
  • a used motor vehicle from a private individual seller.

Products are supplied in trade or commerce when they are sold, exchanged, leased, hired or bought using hire-purchase as part of a trading or commercial relationship or a business or professional activity, including non-profit. Products bought from one-off sales by private sellers, such as those sold at garage sales and fetes, may not be viewed as being 'in trade or commerce'. Regular sellers at markets or online may be considered a business.

Note: the seller may be running a business if they:

  • list an Australian Business Number (ABN) or company name on their web page or profile
  • have a high volume of items for sale or
  • have been trading for a number of years

If there is a problem with the product you should follow the steps below:

Step 1 - Know your rights

Buying goods from a private seller is not covered by the Australian Consumer Law.  However, clear ownership of the item is still guaranteed, unless stated otherwise before the sale.  The seller may also have their own refunds and returns policy with additional rights.

Step 2 - Contact the seller

Consumers should contact the seller to try and resolve the issue. This may include putting your concerns in writing to the seller.

Step 3 - Take the complaint further

If the seller does not try to resolve the issue, you may wish to take the compliant further.  If the consumer bought the good or service from an online auction site, such as eBay or Gumtree, they should first refer to the complaint options available on the website.

If consumers buy through a market stall or a notice board sign and cannot resolve the issue with the seller, the consumer will need to seek legal advice about their options.

Updated: 25 Jul 2022

This page has been produced and published by the Consumer Building and Occupational Services Division of the Department of Justice. Although every care has been taken in production, no responsibility is accepted for the accuracy, completeness, or relevance to the user's purpose of the information. Those using it for whatever purpose are advised to verify it with the relevant government department, local government body or other source and to obtain any appropriate professional advice. The Crown, its officers, employees and agents do not accept liability however arising, including liability for negligence, for any loss resulting from the use of or reliance upon the information and/or reliance on its availability at any time.