Can a second-hand dealer say "no refunds"?

Retailers can't get out of the CGA by putting up signs saying "No Refunds". If something breaks down just after you've bought it, the dealer has to repair or replace it, or give you your money back, provided the failure is covered by the Act.

But you have no legal right to get your money back just because you change your mind - though you can always ask!

The second-hand fridge I bought broke down a week after the shop warranty expired.

You may still be protected under the CGA. This states that goods need to be fit for their purpose, be safe, and last for a reasonable time, taking into account age, condition and the price you paid.

In your case, if the fridge cost 50 bucks, that's a reasonable indication it didn't have much life left in it. But if you paid, say, $500, you can expect it to last a lot longer. The dealer should repair the unit or replace it with a working one in similar condition. If they can't do that, they should give you your money back. You don't have to accept a credit note.

Charity shops generally have to meet the Act too, although there's an exemption if you're not an ordinary customer: for example, if you're getting a $50 heater for just $5 because that's all you can afford.

What about antiques?

You wouldn't dream of using most antiques for their original purpose. If you buy a 1928 vacuum cleaner, for example, it's common sense that you won't try to clean your house with it.

I bought a second-hand camera which the camera shop was selling "on behalf" of someone else. If something goes wrong, do I talk to the shop or the seller?

The shop has the same obligations under the CGA as it does when it's selling its own new stock. If there's a problem with your camera, it's up to the shop to sort things out with you.

I gave a second-hand clothes shop a coat to sell on my behalf. They told me they sold it for $100, and gave me my share. I later found out they sold it for $150.

This is theft. Complain to the shop and, if necessary, take them to a Disputes Tribunal. You may also want to contact the police. But note that to make your case, you will probably need the receipt from the sale, a written statement from the buyer and your own record of what the shop paid you.

I know my old washing machine is not safe anymore. Can I sell it for parts?

Yes, but you have to make the situation clear. Cut off the cord, and where the cord was, attach a label stating that the machine is unsafe and not to be used.

What happens if a dealer says something which just isn't true?

The Fair Trading Act applies to all retailers, including second-hand dealers. Under the law, dealers can't mislead consumers about what they're selling.

The law also prohibits other unfair practices, such as "bait advertising". This is where a trader entices you into the shop by advertising a product when they know they haven't enough to supply a reasonable demand.

If you get stung and can't sort it out with the trader, contact the Commerce Commission, which enforces the Fair Trading Act. The Commission records all the complaints it receives, but it doesn't investigate every case. If you want redress yourself, you can go to a Disputes Tribunal.

I put a deposit down on a dining suite and told the dealer I'd be back the next day with the rest of the money. But they sold it to someone else.

When the seller agreed to sell the suite to you and accepted your deposit, they entered a contract. By them selling to someone else, they've broken that contract.

You obviously have the right to get your deposit back. You can also ask for any costs incurred: the trailer you hired to collect the furniture, the cost of travelling to and from the seller, and so on.

I was buying a second-hand video player on layby, but I've changed my mind. Can I get my money back?

You have the standard protection of the Layby Sales Act if the goods were worth $7,500 or less. You can cancel at any time, but the shop can deduct "selling costs" and "loss of value". We think selling costs (what it cost the retailer to administer the layby) of about $10 to $15 are reasonable in most cases, though a storage fee may be required for large items such as lounge suites.

Loss of value is the difference between the price when you put the item on layby, and what the dealer can sell it for after you cancel, provided it's more than a month after the sale: for example, if you cancel a layby for snow skis at the end of the skiing season. With many second-hand goods, however, there should be little if any loss of value.

I sold a table to a dealer for $50 and he put it in his store for $250. I feel ripped off.

There is no limit to the markup a trader can place on second-hand goods. Shop around when you're selling goods, just as you would if you were buying.

I bought an inkjet printer from a second-hand dealer for my business use and also for the kids' schoolwork. Do the Consumer Guarantees Act and Fair Trading Act apply?

The Fair Trading Act certainly applies. It covers anyone in trade and sellers can't contract out of it. Whether the Consumer Guarantees Act applies depends on the circumstances. In this case, the appliance is something a household might ordinarily have, so the Act does apply. But if you bought an expensive colour laser printer, say (something ordinary households wouldn't have) it wouldn't apply.

You should also note that because you're buying the printer for business use, the seller can contract out of the CGA. But they must do so in writing at the time of the purchase.

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