Buying from a private seller

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

  • a set of golf clubs on Gumtree;
  • a vintage dress on eBay; or
  • used books on Amazon.

Note: If the seller has any of the following, they may be running a business:

  • lists an ABN or company name on their web page or profile;
  • has a high volume of items for sale or; or
  • has been trading for a number of years.

In this case, view our buying from an Australian trader online page.

If there is a problem with your product

Step 1: Know your rights

Not all consumer guarantees apply when you buy from a private seller (and the item is not sold in the course of their business).

If you buy from a private seller you should still have clear title of the item, unless you were told otherwise before the sale.

When you buy goods privately there is a risk that there could be money owing on them and as the new owner, you could become liable for this debt. However, it can be difficult to know whether there is a security interest (or monies owing) on an item. If you have any doubts do not buy the goods.

If you are buying a car or boat it is advisable to do a Personal Property Securities Register (PPSR) check. The seller may also have their own refunds and returns policy. Look for one on their web page or profile.

Step 2: Contact the seller

Contact the seller to negotiate a solution. You may wish to use our complaint letter or email template.

Step 3: Take your complaint further

If the seller does not resolve your issue, what you do next depends on how you paid for the item.

You bought from an online auction house

Most online auction houses have a dispute resolution service. For example, you can report an issue to eBay’s Resolution Centre up to 45 days after the sale. You can open a case in the Resolution Centre regardless of how you bought the item (in other words, via an auction or ‘Buy it now’).

Note: If you paid via PayPal, you will be automatically directed from eBay to the PayPal Resolution Centre. See below.

You can also post feedback about the seller on the auction site to warn the auction house and other potential buyers.

You paid via PayPal

You can file a dispute through PayPal's Resolution Centre within 180 days of paying for the item. You may be covered by PayPal’s Buyer Protection.

You paid via credit card

Contact your provider to organise a chargeback (this effectively reverses the credit card charge, and is similar to a refund). The chargeback is a process with your credit card provider, separate from any other dispute resolution service such as those with eBay or PayPal. More information is available on our credit card chargeback page. 

You paid via online cash transfer

If you used an instant cash transfer system (such as Western Union or MoneyGram) or if you deposited your money directly into the seller's bank account, it can be very difficult to track your money once the seller has collected it. In this case, you should contact the police who may be able to assist.

If the seller is in Australia, you can lodge a claim with the tribunal in the state where the seller lives.

If the seller lives overseas, you should seek independent legal advice.

Although Consumer Protection cannot resolve disputes arising from consumer-to-consumer sales, we can provide you with further advice. For more information, contact us.

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