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Horse Purchase Disputes – The Consumer Rights Act 2015
How does the introduction of the Consumer Rights Act 2015 impact the issue of buying a horse or pony and then finding out there is an issue?
We hope that by providing a little more information on this subject it will help to highlight what the Act covers.
As horse purchase disputes are by far the most common form of equine legal problems requiring specialist services.
Such disputes fall into two distinct categories; commercial and private sales.
A. Commercial Sales
On 1 October 2015 the Consumer Rights Act 2015 came into force.
It reintroduced many of the rights previously available under the old Sale of Goods legislation.
The Act also provided more extensive rights to a “consumer”,
“an individual acting for purposes that are wholly or mainly outside their trade, business, craft or profession”.
When purchasing from a “trader”,
“a person acting for purposes relating to their trade, business, craft or profession”.
“Goods” which include horses must be:
of “satisfactory quality”,
“fit for their particular purpose” and
“comply with their description” and
a Consumer Contract “is to be treated” as including such terms.
The quality of goods is deemed satisfactory, if they meet the standard that a reasonable person would consider satisfactory.
This needs to take account of any description of the goods, the price, and all other relevant circumstances.
The quality includes the state and condition of the goods and where appropriate:
their fitness for the purpose for which goods of that kind are usually supplied,
their appearance, finish, freedom from minor defects, safety and durability are all material aspects.
The protection of “satisfactory quality” does not cover anything which is specifically drawn to the consumer’s attention before the contract is made, or where the consumer examines the goods before the contract is made, or something which that examination ought to reveal.
Fitness for Purpose
If before the consumer agrees to buy the goods he/she makes known to the trader any particular purpose for which the consumer is purchasing the goods, the contract is treated as including a term that the goods are reasonably fit for that purpose, whether or not that is a purpose for which goods of that kind are usually supplied unless the consumer did not rely, or it was unreasonable for the consumer to rely, upon the skill or judgement of the trader.
The goods must also correspond to any pre-contract information about the main characteristics of the goods which the trader provides to the consumer.
Where the goods “do not conform to contract” because of breach of the terms as to quality, fitness for purpose or description the consumer has the following rights:
a right to reject the goods within 30 days,
a right to have the goods replaced,
a right to a price reduction or a final right to reject.
If the goods do not conform to contract at any time within 6 months from the date of delivery they are taken not to have conformed on the date of delivery unless the trader establishes otherwise.
B. Private Sales
In the absence of any express agreement reached between the parties it is for the purchaser to satisfy himself/herself that the goods are in order and hence of satisfactory quality, fit for their intended purpose and meet their description.
The seller has no such obligations. This is the longstanding legal principle of “caveat emptor” or “buyer beware”.
In those circumstances a private sale purchaser’s entitlement to bring a claim is often limited to rights available under the law of misrepresentation.
The law of misrepresentation
The law of misrepresentation is separate and distinct from that relating to the law of contract. In consequence claims can be brought for both breach of contract and misrepresentation at one and the same time as well as separately. For a misrepresentation claim there are five essential ingredients;
the seller (or his agent) must make a representation of fact about the goods,
the purchaser must rely upon the representation of fact,
the representation must induce the purchaser to enter into the agreement to purchase the goods,
the representation must be false, and
loss must have arisen as a result.
Misrepresentations can fall into three categories; innocent, negligent and fraudulent.
The extent of the rights available is dependent upon the nature of the misrepresentation. Generally however a purchaser is entitled to recover compensation for the misrepresentation and in more serious cases to rescind the agreement and recover the purchase price and claim a refund for expenses incurred.
C. Defects with Horses
For a successful claim generally there will need to be a defect with the horse. Defects typically fall into types; clinical and behavioural.
Clinical defects again fall into two categories; latent and patent. Patent defects are those which can be discovered by reasonable inspection. Latent defects are those which cannot be discovered by reasonable inspection. For example:
A horse that trots up lame displays a patent defect.
A horse with OCD (osteochondritis dissecans) may not display any physical symptoms at the time of purchase but through activity may soon become lame. Such a defect is latent until it becomes patent.
The five stage pre-purchase veterinary examination is designed to address clinical defects (and to a lesser extent behavioural ones). It is important to recognise that generally only patent defects will be capable of being identified through the examination process.
Only with x-ray photographs or adoption of similar procedures will latent defects be revealed. Latent defects may still render the horse to be not of satisfactory quality and/or unfit for its intended purpose.
Satisfactory proof of clinical defects will normally require veterinary evidence. In the first instance a report/letter from a treating veterinary surgeon may be sufficient to establish the nature, if not origin, of the defect. What is equally important however is the need to establish whether the defect was in existence at the time of sale.
Increasingly veterinary surgeons specialise in specific areas of veterinary medicine and there are many very capable and experienced “equine” vets. Such a veterinary surgeon should be consulted promptly when a clinical defect is suspected. The veterinary surgeon’s input and particularly any letter/initial report provided may be sufficient to resolve any dispute with the vendor. However, not every good horse vet is necessarily a good “expert” witness if the dispute should escalate to the point of litigation. In that event, careful consideration should be given to the appointment of an appropriate expert for evidential purposes.
Behavioural problems can have many origins including a manifestation of a clinical defect. Such problems may not necessarily constitute a “defect” for claim purposes.
Horses are simply animals and a change of environment, feed regime and different relationship with the rider/owner can all greatly influence the horse’s behaviour particularly in the period immediately following purchase.
It follows that careful consideration should be given to possible origins for any marked change in behaviour including enquiries made of the vendor and potentially veterinary examination. Where possible, enquiries should be made with the previous owners of the horse, and/or others who may be familiar with it, to establish whether the animal has previously displayed similar behavioural traits.
Where the behaviour is extreme but not of a clinical origin it may not necessarily require “expert” evidence. Video evidence for instance may be sufficient. In other cases evidence from a capable and experienced horse person, particularly one who is familiar with and understands the purchaser’s need and limitations may prove important.
We would be delighted to explain how we can help. To contact us, please:
Emily King may claim that she is ‘not very good under pressure’ but she certainly kept her cool to win the Investec CCI3*-L riding Vicki and Stewart Irlam’s Jackpot on the final day at Osberton International https://www.an-eventful-life.com.au/uk-europe/uk
On Saturday, officers from the Keighley NPT in conjunction with Horse Watch, carried out a road safety event in Haworth. The event was to promote safe and appropriate driving around horses on a road. Drivers were reminded to reduce their speed to 10mph and leave a 2 meter gap.
We recently had cause to take legal action to recover a debt relating to the purchase of a horse which had been mis-described/mis-represented by a private seller, we had to take the legal action to reject the horse because the owner went to ground and would not respond to our reasonable requests. For our family, purchasing our first horse, this was a disaster and we didn’t really know how to go about returning the horse and getting our money back from the private seller.
We were put in contact with Hannah Salter of Waddington Turner Wall/Michael Bower Equine Law and she was able to quickly grasp the circumstances that were relevant and helped us to devise a plan to put the situation right, this involved building a strong case from the available information that we provided and then embarking on the execution of the plan.
Hannah was available to us all the way through our recovery process and advised us well, eventually we succeeded at obtaining a County Court Judgement and we took that to the High Court and then enforced the instructions of the Court resulting in us recovering most of the costs associated and the horse was at last returned to the seller.
We greatly appreciated Hannah’s way of dealing with us as novice horse owners and she was able to build a very strong position for us to follow through the Court system-something that we had never experienced before.
I would recommend Hannah to any person who might find themselves in a similar position to ours-I am sure that you would appreciate the support and expert knowledge that Hannah has and then use it to good effect.
Steve & Rebecca Rees 17.06.2022
We would like to pay tribute to the team at Michael Bower Equine Law who helped us secure justice last week in a misrepresentation case.
A top horsewoman with a string of event horses sold a Connemara with chronic behavioural issues as a ‘mother/daughter share’ with ‘no vices or issues’, for a 14 year old child, despite the pony’s history of bronking and rearing.
Having been warned of its history she sold it on then turned the tables when it was returned and refused to negotiate for 2 years.
In the Small Claims Court Michael Bower’s team won the case and secured the return of the purchase price, all associated losses and 50% of the costs, which is pretty rare for small claims.
We are so grateful and feel vindicated for returning this pony when it was so clearly wrong.
Thank you so much Michael Bower Equine Law for your great advice and support throughout.
Helen G G 31.05.2022
The term ‘horse trading’, which came into usage around 1820, owes its origin to the notorious shrewdness of horse traders who bought and sold horses. Unfortunately, the term is still applicable as buying horses is as much a mine-field now, as it was two-hundred years ago.
Having fallen victim to a duplicitous trader, an expert was needed to resolve the ensuing dispute over return of the horse and refund of payment. In these situations, only the best will do and the recommendation to equine lawyer, Michael Bower, was a great blessing.
Through his extensive knowledge of equine law, Michael Bower applied his legal expertise to the circumstances of the sale and within a matter of weeks, the case was brought to a satisfactory conclusion.
In offering a professional service, Michael is direct and at the same time very personable which is greatly appreciated when dealing with a potentially stressful scenario.
I will be eternally grateful to Michael Bower for resolving my case and would not hesitate in recommending his excellent legal practice to anyone who falls victim to a twenty-first century horse trader, sadly, of whom there are many!
Alex A 26.05.2022
We are so glad we rang Michael Bower Equine Law and spoke to Hannah Salter as from the first conversation she was very knowledgeable and easy to talk to, and she told us exactly what position we were in and what she recommended we did next.
She very supportive through a really tough and emotional time for us and always at the end of the phone to listen to any questions. Myself and my daughter can’t thank her enough for resolving our issue and would highly recommend her.
Jane and Milly Shaw 17.06.2021
Thankyou for your time and assistance. I found the service offered by Hannah to be exceptional. The response to my initial request was prompt and pertinent with all follow up actions prepared in a diligent way. I would have no hesitation in using Hannah again and would fully recommend the service provided.
Christine Lilly 04.06.2021
Thank you so much Michael and team for providing such fantastic advice and support, and for successfully securing a positive settlement. I highly recommend Michael; he is so knowledgeable and approachable. I felt very comfortable asking questions, nothing was too much bother. I was expertly guided through the whole process, being informed, advised and consulted the entire time.
Jo Fox 10.05.2021
Michael put me at ease straight away. He was so approachable and welcoming from the the first minute I spoke to him. He had so much knowledge and gave me such fantastic advice. He really helped to clarify my position and ways forward. I would highly recommend Michael Bower for anyone wishing to seek legal advice and representation.
Mrs Young 26.10.2020
Thanks again for going above and beyond to get that contract drawn up. We are very pleased with it!
We really are so happy with the work done and all your advice has been taken on board. Its been a great experience.
Ms Black 23.10.2020
I asked Michael Bower to assist me on a potential property issue concerning our boundaries and rights of access.
I was very glad of his competent help and practical advice. He immediately came to view and discuss the site in question, and followed it up with detailed and rigorous research, document search of deed and land registry. His responses were detailed, clear and prompt. He was always easy to contact and gave realistic appraisal on the problem of pursuing the issue without adequate back up – including potential costs.
I would strongly recommend him for attending to enquiries of this kind
Nigel Young PhD. 16.09.2020
I would like to thank Michael for the expedient, efficient, and professional manner in which he assisted me with a personal legal matter surrounding my horse.
His courteous, down to earth attitude and his ability to grasp the seriousness of the situation was indeed a great comfort to me. The matter has now been resolved and I can only thank Michael for his time in helping me sort the issue to its favourable conclusion.
I would have no reservations in recommending Michael and WTW solicitors to anyone.