The topics in the Dial-A-Law series provide only general information on legal issues within the province of Alberta. This service is provided by Calgary Legal Guidance funded in part by the Alberta Law Foundation. The purpose is to make you aware of your legal rights and responsibilities. This is not legal advice. If you require legal advice, you should contact a lawyer.
This topic discusses things to consider when you are buying goods.
Whenever you purchase goods, you are entering into a legally binding Contract that contains certain terms and conditions. The terms of a Contract are the promises made by the parties involved. Each promise is a legal obligation. For example, the seller must own the goods before selling them. The purpose of the goods must be as promised. The goods must be of good quality unless the Contract expressly states otherwise.
You should read and understand the terms and conditions of the purchase and what remedies are available to you and the seller if the terms and conditions are not fulfilled. Never sign a Contract that you have not read or do not understand, because the law will assume that you read and agreed to the terms. Never sign a Contract with blanks to be filled in, such as price or quantity.
The Contract for purchase may be verbal, written or implied from the conduct of the parties involved. A verbal Contract for the future delivery of goods or services can be enforced by the law where the goods are worth less than $50. A written Contract is proof of the Contract, and is usually used where the goods are worth more than $50. A contract for future goods over $50 can still be enforced if parts of the contract are performed, such as receiving some of the goods, giving a deposit, or making partial payment. Although verbal Contracts can be binding provided they meet the requirements of forming a contract, remember that proving the existence or terms of a verbal Contract is much more difficult than with a written one.
The goods must be properly described in the Contract. If you buy goods that are not as promised in the terms of the Contract, return the goods and get your money back. If the goods are as promised but you wish to return the goods for another reason, the store is not legally obligated to accept the return. Each store has its own return policy. If you do not see the return policy posted, ask the salesclerk to write the return policy on the back of your bill. The store may refund your money or issue you a store credit. In door-to-door sales, you have a right to cancel the purchase within 10 days of receiving the direct Sales Contract, or 1 year in other circumstances.
If you suffered damages as a result of the purchase, you have a right to sue in Court for damages. Return the goods within a reasonable time, otherwise the Court may find that you accepted the goods as they were. You should consult a lawyer if you think you have suffered damages as a result of a purchase.
In private sales, the parties involved must also fulfill the written terms of a contract. If the seller does not promise the goods are quality, then you have no right to sue. Once there is an agreement made for the sale and purchase of goods between you and the seller, payment must be made even if you decide not to take the goods, or the goods are lost or destroyed. The payment is a legal obligation of the Contract that must be fulfilled. If you refuse to pay for the goods, the seller can sue for the costs of the goods, plus additional damages.
Always check at the Personal Property Registry to see if there are liens or encumbrances registered against the goods you buy in a private sale. If you are still unsure about the ownership of the goods you want to buy, contact the Consumer Contact Centre at 780-427-4088 in Edmonton and toll free at 1-877-427-4088 throughout the rest of the province.
Dial-A-Law is a Calgary Legal Guidance public service project funded in part by the Alberta Law Foundation.