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Protections when buying privately

If a private seller doesn’t have clear legal ownership

How am I protected if a private seller still owes money on what I bought?

Contract and Commercial Law Act 2017, ss 135, 136, 195; Consumer Guarantees Act 1993, ss 2 (“consumer” definition), 41, 43

You have the right to a refund or damages (“compensation”) if you’re sold goods in a private sale and, unknown to you, the seller didn’t have the right to sell the goods, or owed money on them, or had used them as security for a loan.

When you buy privately – for example, through the “For Sale” column of a newspaper – rather than from a shop or other business, the Contract and Commercial Law Act automatically makes the following things part of your contract with the seller (unless the contract explicitly says otherwise):

  • the seller has the right to sell you the goods
  • no-one else (for example, a finance company) holds a security interest in the goods that the seller hasn’t told you about
  • the goods are the same as any samples the seller showed you, and they match any description you were given.

Those protections under the Contract and Commercial Law Act may also cover you in the following situations, which aren’t covered by the wider protections in the Consumer Guarantees Act:

  • if you’ve bought commercial goods (the kind of things that aren’t usually bought for personal, domestic or household use – a photocopier for example)
  • if you’ve bought personal or household goods to use in business, and the seller contracted out of the Consumer Guarantees Act
  • if you’ve bought goods to re-sell them or to use in a manufacturing process.

The Contract and Commercial Law Act doesn’t cover services. But if you buy services that aren’t covered by the Consumer Guarantees Act, you may have a claim against the other person under the ordinary rules of contract law, see below, “Other contract breaches”.

Note: If you agree with the seller that the Contract and Commercial Law Act won’t cover you, you lose your protections under this Act.

When a third person may be able to take the goods from you

Personal Property Securities Act 1999, ss 52–54; Contract and Commercial Law Act 2017, s 149

If you buy goods privately and the seller still owes money on the goods, or some other third person or company has a security interest over the goods, the creditor may be able to repossess the goods from you if:

  • the item was worth more than $2,000 when the seller originally bought it or used it as security to take out a loan, or
  • you knew about the security interest when you bought the goods, regardless of the value of the goods.

If the creditor does repossess and sell the goods, you may be able to make a claim against the seller for a breach of the Contract and Commercial Law Act 2017.

Note: When buying privately, you should check the Personal Properties Securities Register (PPSR) to see if there is any money owing on the item that could affect the seller’s ownership of it. You need to register to do this, but registration is free. There is a small cost to search the register. For information on searching the PPSR, see “Where to go for more support” at the end of this page. You can also text to check if there is money owing on a motor vehicle, see “Buying a motor vehicle privately”.

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Consumer protection

Where to go for more support

Community Law


Your local Community Law Centre can provide free initial legal advice and information.

Consumer Protection


Consumer Protection helpline: 0508 426 678 (0508 4 CONSUMER)

Email: cpinfo@mbie.govt.nz

The Consumer Protection website has useful information on a range of consumer topics. Consumer Protection is part of the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment (MBIE).



Phone: 0800 345 123

FinCap can help you with budgeting information online or on the phone. They may also suggest a local budgeting service to help you with debt and other budgeting issues.

Consumer NZ


The Consumer NZ website provides a wide range of information on consumer issues and template letters you can use to write to traders to enforce your rights. You can also order “Do Not Knock” stickers to deter uninvited door to door knockers on their website.

Citizens Advice Bureau


Phone: 0800 FOR CAB (0800 367 222)

Citizens Advice Bureaux have volunteers trained in consumer law who can provide you with information and advice about consumer problems.

Commerce Commission


Phone: 0800 943 600

Email: contact@comcom.govt.nz

The Commerce Commission enforces the laws against misleading and deceptive conduct by traders (the Fair Trading Act) and the consumer credit legislation (the Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act). The Commission provides information on these areas on its website.

Consumer rights in another language


This site by the Commerce Commission has information about typical situations consumers find themselves in, in five different languages.

Product Recalls


This site lets you know which products have been “recalled” due to safety issues or product defects. You can generally return a recalled product to the place where you bought it to be repaired or replaced.

Motor Vehicle Traders Register


Phone: 0508 MOTOR TRADERS (0508 668 678)

Check to see if a motor vehicle trader is registered.

Motor Vehicle Disputes Tribunal


Phone: 0800 268 787

The Motor Vehicle Disputes Tribunal deals with disputes of amounts up to $100,000. It can be more if both parties agree in writing.

Personal Properties Securities Register (PPSR)


Search the PPSR register to see if there is any security interest registered against a vehicle. This can be done for a small fee by registering to check online

Proceedings in the District Courts

The Ministry of Justice website has information about making or responding to a claim in the District Courts. See: www.justice.govt.nz and search “claims to civil court”.

Buying a car privately

YouthLaw has produced a video on buying a car privately.
See: www.youtube.com/watch?v=aK8irFAn1as

New Zealand Police


Check to make sure a car that you’re considering buying hasn’t been listed with the police as stolen.

Dispute resolution schemes

There are four dispute resolution schemes for consumers dealing with lenders and other credit providers.

Financial Services Complaints Limited – www.fscl.org.nz

Phone: 0800 347 257

Email: info@fscl.org.nz

Insurance & Financial Services Ombudsman
Phone: 0800 888 202

Email: info@ifso.nz

Banking Ombudsman – www.bankomb.org.nz
0800 805 950

Email: help@bankomb.org.nz

Financial Dispute Resolution – www.fdrs.org.nz
0508 337 337

Email: enquiries@fdrs.org.nz

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