While there are genuine "non trader" car boot sellers and many legitimate "traders", there are also many non legitimate traders who sell at car boot sales under the guise of private individuals, with a view to escaping tax, VAT and their legal and moral obligations to their customers. Equally there are some who perhaps don't realise that they have crossed the divide between private seller and business.
So if you sell regularly how do you know whether you are a trader, and therefore subject to the laws that come with that, or a private individual?
Ask yourself whether the goods you are selling are your own personal property. If they are not and you are buying goods for the express purpose of selling them for a profit you are very likely to be considered a trader under the law. Furthermore, if you attend car boot sales on a regular basis, even if it is only once every couple of months, you may be regarded as a trader. And if you employ anyone and/or sell the same type of goods from other venues, such as markets or from home, you are almost certainly a trader in the eyes of the law. If you feel you would be classed as a trader you need to be aware of the following laws.
Business Names Act - If you do not trade under your own name you must display a business name along with an address where legal documentation can be sent to you.
Consumer Protection Act - Everything you sell must be SAFE. It is very important that you pay particular attention to electrical goods, toys, upholstered furniture and clothing, particularly nightwear. Also, when you display prices on goods it is illegal to charge buyers more than the display price or to mislead them in any way regarding the price.
Fair Trading Act - It is against the law to display a sign which attempts to limit a buyer's rights in any way, e.g. "NO REFUNDS" or "SOLD AS SEEN". Not only are such signs illegal but they will not hold up and will fail to limit the buyer's rights.
Price Marking Order - Traders must display prices in writing of all goods offered for sale.
Food Safety Act - There are very specific rules relating to the labelling, composition and hygiene standards pertaining to the preparation and handling of the food, and failure to comply with them can result in extremely high fines. If you sell or prepare food you can obtain advice and leaflets from the Environmental Health Department at your local Council.
Trade Descriptions Act/Trade marks Act/Copyright Designs and Patents Act - These acts are detailed (and a bit long winded!) but essentially any goods sold must be as described, any attempt to mis-describe goods is an offence. If you sell DVDs, videos, CDs, cassettes and tee shirts, etc. you must ensure that you do not fall foul of the copyright regulations, and ensure that what you are selling is not counterfeit. Also, any films sold must be classified by the BBFC. Selling films which are unclassified may result in fines up to £20,000 PER TAPE or a prison sentence! It is strongly recommended by Trading Standards that you obtain further advice on the Video Recordings Act before offering films for sale.
Sale & Supply of Goods Act - Regardless of whether goods are new or second hand, when you sell them the they must be of a satisfactory quality, as described and fit for the purpose for which they are sold. If the goods do not live up to these standards then the customer is entitled to a refund if they act reasonably promptly. Even if they delay in returning the goods they are still entitled to a replacement, repair or price reduction (partial refund). If you are knowingly selling something with defects you must clearly inform the customer prior to the sale being completed if you wish to escape this obligation. Failure to comply with this Act will not result in prosecution but you may be sued by your customers.