The doctrine of caveat emptor is an important part of Sale of goods act 1930. It converts to “let the customer beware”. this suggests it lays the responsibility of their choice on the customer themselves. it’s defined in section 16 of the sale of goods act 1930. A seller makes his goods available within the open market. the customer previews all his options then accordingly makes his choice. Now let’s assume that the merchandise seems to be defective or of inferior quality. This doctrine says that the vendor won’t be liable for this. the customer himself is liable for the selection he made.
So, the doctrine attempts to form the customer more aware of his choices. it’s the duty of the customer to see the standard and therefore the usefulness of the merchandise he’s purchasing. If the merchandise seems to be defective or doesn’t live up to its potential the vendor won’t be liable for this.
Let us see an example. A bought a COW from Bala. A wanted to enter the cow during a race. seems the cow could run a race on account of being lame. But Ajay didn’t inform Bala of his intentions. So, Bala won’t be liable for the defects of the cow. The Doctrine of principle will apply.
EXCEPTIONS TO THE DOCTRINE OF PRINCIPLE
The doctrine of principle has certain specific exceptions. allow us to take a quick check out these exceptions.
1] Fitness of Product for the Buyer’s Purpose
When the customer informs the vendor of his purpose of shopping for the products, it’s implied that he’s counting on the seller’s judgment. it’s the duty of the vendor than to make sure the products match their desired usage.
Say for instance Alia goes to Bala to shop for a bicycle. He informs Bala he wants to use the cycle for mountain trekking. If Bala sells him a standard bicycle that’s incapable of fulfilling Alia’s purpose the vendor is going to be responsible. Another example is the case study of Priest v. Last.
2] Goods Purchased under the name
When the customer buys a product under a brand name or a branded product the vendor can’t be held liable for the usefulness or quality of the merchandise. So, there’s no implied condition that the products are going to be fit the aim the customer intended.
3] Goods sold by Description
When the customer buys the products based only on the outline there’ll be an exception. If the products don’t match the outline then in such a case the vendor is going to be liable for the products.
4] Goods of Merchantable Quality
Section 16 (2) deals except for merchantable quality. The sections state that the vendor who is selling goods by description features a duty of providing goods of merchantable quality, i.e. capable of passing the market standards.
So if the products aren’t of marketable quality then the customer won’t be the one who is responsible. it’ll be the seller’s responsibility. However, if the customer has had an inexpensive chance to look at the merchandise, then this exception won’t apply.
5] Sale by Sample
If the customer buys his goods after examining a sample then the rule of Doctrine of principle won’t apply. If the remainder of the products doesn’t resemble the sample, the customer can’t be held responsible. during this case, the vendor is going to be the one responsible.
For example, A places an order for 50 toy cars with B. He checks one sample where the car is red. the remainder of the cars ends up orange. Here the doctrine won’t apply and B are going to be responsible.
6] Sale by Description and Sample
If the sale is completed via a sample also as an outline of the merchandise, the customer won’t be responsible if the products don’t resemble the sample and/or the outline. Then the responsibility will fall squarely on the vendor.
7] Usage of Trade
There is an implied condition or warranty about the standard or the fitness of goods/products. But if a seller deviated from this then the principles of principle cease to use. for instance, D bought goods from B in an auction of the contents of a ship. But B didn’t inform D the contents were sea damaged, then the principles of the doctrine won’t apply here.
8] Fraud or Misrepresentation by the vendor
This is another important exception. If the vendor obtains the consent of the customer by fraud then the principle won’t apply. Also, if the vendor conceals any material defects of the products which are later discovered on closer examination, but the customer won’t be responsible. In both cases, the vendor is going to be the culprit.
Important case laws associated with the doctrine of principle
1 Ranbirsingh Shankar Singh Thakur v Hindustan general electric corporation Ltd,
In this case, it had been held that section 6(1) applies where the customer requires goods for a selected purpose and he expressly or impliedly make that purpose known to the vendor, he relies on the talents of the vendor and seller’s usual course of business is to sell such goods whether he’s the particular producer or not.
2 frost v Aylesbury dairy co. Ltd
In this case, it had been held that when the plaintiff brought milk from the defendant, the milk contained germs of typhoid and therefore the plaintiff’s wife took the milk and got an infection as a result of which she died. Plaintiff was entitled to recover the damages.
3 Wallis v Russel
In this case, the court while explaining the scope of the doctrine said that principle only implies that a buyer must lookout. It doesn’t mean that a buyer shall take an opportunity. The doctoring applies when the customer exercises his own judgments and voluntarily choose the merchandise, he must buy.
So lastly it is often concluded that the legislation protects the rights and interests of buyers also as a seller without being bias towards any of them. it protects the sellers right by enshrining the doctrine of principle but at an equivalent time, the law provides exception also as under which a seller is often held liable and it had been said again and again the exceptions to the rule are considered more important than the rule itself.
Author(s) Name: Kanak Patidar (Symbiosis Law School, Nagpur)