Information is available from the Trading Standards Institute to help consumers. Please note the county council is not responsible for this information.
In the guide
This guidance is for England, Scotland and Wales
Be aware that buying goods at one-day sales can be a risk; you may not get the bargain you hoped for.
When you buy goods from a trader you are making a legally binding contract, which is covered by the Consumer Rights Act 2015. This law gives you rights and remedies against the trader if the goods are faulty, not fit for purpose or not as described.
If you enter a contract because a trader misled you or because the trader used an aggressive commercial practice, the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 give you rights to redress.
What is a one-day sale?
One-day sales are events, usually held in venues that have been booked for the day, where goods are offered for sale by traders at bargain prices. Some may be genuine but most are not. They are often run by slick, well-practised traders and a team of assistants who are expert in taking advantage of buyers' love of a bargain.
Typically, traders are not local. They will hire a venue such as a church hall or hotel or take a short-term lease on an empty shop in order to hold the sale.
Some people are tempted to attend a sale, generally advertised on social media, by the lure of huge discounts on brand-named goods, often electrical goods. Traders may also advertise on leaflets distributed only a few days before the sale itself. The event may be described as a bankrupt-stock sale or a warehouse clearance sale.
The trader's assistants may begin the process of whipping up excitement for the sale even before it has commenced by 'working' the queue of people waiting to enter the saleroom, chatting to them and building up the anticipation.
The trader usually conducts the sale from behind an elevated counter and invariably the goods are hidden from view so as not to allow the crowd to see beforehand what they are buying. Sometimes the potential buyers will pay to be 'locked' into the saleroom, fully expecting that only they will be the lucky recipients of a bargain. The trader may give 'sweetener' goods away or sell them at very low prices. This process is designed to heighten the anticipation of the crowd and prime them for the commencement of the actual sale.
A common practice is for the trader to use their assistants to pose as customers to mingle with the unsuspecting audience and then 'sell' genuine goods to them to reinforce the illusion that there are bargains to be had.
The buyers are given their 'bargains', which may be well packaged to deter close and immediate inspection. They invariably turn out to be shoddy, inferior, unsafe, counterfeit goods or even empty boxes and certainly not the top brand bargains that the buyers were hoping for. The buyers are usually ushered out of the saleroom and not allowed back in.
What are my rights when buying at a one-day sale?
It is an important element of a contract that a trader must give you specific pre-contract information as set out in the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013. The 'Buying from business premises: on-premises contracts explained' and the 'Buying at home: off-premises contracts explained' guides explain what these pre-contract requirements are. If a trader does not provide the required information, you can make a claim to have your costs (if you have any) reimbursed.
The Consumer Rights Act 2015 sets out what you are entitled to expect from goods supplied by a trader. These are commonly referred to as your 'statutory rights'. The law also gives you remedies against a trader if they fail to meet your expectations.
The Consumer Rights Act 2015 does not entitle you to anything if:
The 'Sale and supply of goods: your consumer rights' guide gives more information on your rights and which remedy you are entitled to.
Traders who operate one-day sales may be trading 'on premises', which means the venue is considered to be their business premises for the purpose of the sale and the trader must therefore comply with the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 when they sell goods to you. They must get your clear agreement if they want to charge you for 'extras'. Telephone helplines must only be charged at the basic rate. There are rules on delivery of goods and the point at which you become responsible for them. The 'Buying from business premises: on-premises contracts explained' guide gives more information.
If the trader organises a one-day sale as an excursion away from their usual business premises this is called trading 'off premises'. The Regulations above also apply to contracts made 'off premises' but you also have cancellation rights and the cancellation period is 14 days. See our guide 'Buying at home: off-premises contracts explained' for more information.
Under the Consumer Rights (Payment Surcharges) Regulations 2012, which were amended by the Payment Services Regulations 2017, traders are banned from imposing surcharges on consumers for using the following payment methods:
Traders can impose a surcharge for other methods of payment, for example cash or cheques, but the amount must not be excessive; it must reflect the actual cost to the trader of processing the payment. The Regulations apply to most sales and service contracts.
The Regulations give you rights to redress. Any requirement to pay a banned surcharge or the part of a surcharge that is excessive, is unenforceable by the trader. This means you do not have to pay. If you have already paid the surcharge, or the excess, you are entitled to a refund. If you have a complaint about surcharges, report it to the Citizens Advice consumer service.
It may be virtually impossible for you to exercise your rights after you have bought from a one-day sale, unless it is a genuine one. A disreputable trader and his team will have packed up and gone and be extremely difficult to trace.
The goods are faulty but I cannot trace the trader: what can I do?
If you pay for the goods by credit card and if they cost more than £100 but less than £30,000 you are protected by the Consumer Credit Act 1974. Section 75 of the Act makes the card provider as responsible as the trader for a breach of contract or a misrepresentation. You are entitled to take action against the trader, the card provider or both. This does not apply to charge cards or debit cards.
If you use a debit card to purchase the goods or if you use a credit card and the price of the goods is less than £100 (your rights under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 would not apply), you may be able to take advantage of the chargeback scheme. Chargeback is the term used by card providers for reclaiming a card payment from the trader's bank. If you can evidence a breach of contract (the goods are faulty or you cannot trace the trader for example) you can ask your card provider to attempt to recover the payment. Check with your card provider as to how the scheme rules apply to your card and what the time limit is for making a claim.
The venue owners have a contract with the trader for the booking of the venue only. The venue owners are not liable to you for the goods that you were sold. They may have contact details for the trader, although you should bear in mind that they may have been victims as well. It is not uncommon for the venue to be supplied with bogus details and not receive payment for the booking.
How can I avoid being ripped off?
I've been ripped off: what can I do?
The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 prohibits commercial practices that are unfair to consumers. If a trader misleads you (for example, claiming goods are made by a particular designer when they are fake), engages in an aggressive commercial practice - such as using heavy-handed security staff - or engages in a trading practice that is banned under the Regulations, they may have committed an offence.
If you enter a contract because a trader misled you or because the trader used an aggressive commercial practice, the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 give you rights to redress: the right to unwind the contract, the right to a discount and the right to damages. These rights are in addition to the rights you already have under the Consumer Rights Act 2015. The 'Misleading and aggressive practices: rights to redress' guide gives more information.
If you attended a one-day sale and the goods you bought are faulty, not fit for a particular purpose, not as described, unsafe or you think you have been ripped off or defrauded, report it to the Citizens Advice consumer service.
Last reviewed / updated: October 2020
This information is intended for guidance; only the courts can give an authoritative interpretation of the law.
The guide's 'Key legislation' links may only show the original version of the legislation, although some amending legislation is linked to separately where it is directly related to the content of a guide. Information on amendments to legislation can be found on each link's 'More Resources' tab.
For further information in England and Wales contact the Citizens Advice consumer service on 0808 2231133. In Scotland contact Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000. Both provide free, confidential and impartial advice on consumer issues.
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The county council is not responsible for this information.