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Whether you are a seller or purchaser, it is worth being aware of how the Consumer Rights Act of 2015 can apply to your equine transactions.  

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 (the Act) provides protections and potent remedies to consumers who purchase goods and services from businesses. The Act applies equally to the purchase of a smartphone as it does to a competition horse. Understanding how the nuances of the Act apply to a live animal with ever changing temperament and fitness is vital when exercising your statutory rights. 

Does the Act apply to all equine purchases? 

No, the Act only applies to a sale of a horse from a trader to a consumer under the below definitions:

Trader - a person acting for purposes relating to that person’s trade, business, craft or profession, whether acting personally or through another person acting in the trader’s name or on the trader’s behalf.

Consumer - an individual acting for purposes that are wholly or mainly outside that individual’s trade, business, craft or profession.

In many situations the status of the seller and the buyer will be clear. However, there are several common scenarios which are less clear-cut. We recommend legal advice is sought whenever the question of trader or consumer is unclear.  

What are your rights under the Act?

The Act automatically implies a term into the contract that the horse must be of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose and sold as described at the point of sale and subsequent delivery. This term is implied into the contract even if terms such as "sold as seen" are used in the contract or receipt. 

Breach of either satisfactory quality, fitness for purpose and sold as described entitles you to a 30 day right to reject the horse and claim additional losses starting from receipt of the horse. If the horse is not rejected within 30 days, the Act says you must exercise a right of repair or replacement at the seller's expense and allow a reasonable time for the repair or replacement. 

If the repair or replacement is not effective or forthcoming within a reasonable time, you can exercise a final right of rejection or price reduction. In the context of a horse, a repair or replacement is not possible meaning a rejection and refund will be the only appropriate remedy. 

What is meant by satisfactory quality, fitness for purpose and goods sold as described? 

Satisfactory quality, fitness for purpose and sold as described will vary depending on the price paid, the purpose for which goods of the nature are commonly bought and any purposes made known to the seller. The higher the price paid the higher the standard needed for goods to be deemed satisfactory

Descriptions can be made orally, text/email or in adverts. Typically, a seller will only be held to account for factual descriptions as opposed to opinions or sales puff.  

How do I bring a claim for breach of the Act? 

The onus is on the buyer to show that the horse was either not of satisfactory quality, not fit for purpose and not as described at the point at which the horse was delivered. However, the Act creates a presumption that any issue identified within 6 months of delivery making the horse not of satisfactory quality was also present at delivery. In practice, this puts the burden on the seller to show that the issue was not present at the point of delivery which can be very difficult to prove. 

Whilst clearly the burden on the seller is high, it is not impossible to overcome so purchasers should be particularly wary of any social media posts shortly after purchase indicating a satisfaction with the horse. The best form of evidence is often a report from a veterinary specialist or behavioural expert. 

Our dedicated specialist equine team of Josh O'Neill and Ian Brown have extensive experience advising and assisting in all aspects law relating to horses. If you are in any need of advice and assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us.