What is meant by Caveat venditor?

Exchange of goods is essential for humans to conduct their businesses and to live their daily life. Exchange of goods or services is something that is unstoppable as it keeps the society running and just like when heart stops in human body, same way if exchange of goods and services is obstructed, the whole social system collapses.

As humans interact conflicts are unavoidable. Same is the case with sale of goods between seller and buyer. Sometimes, when the sale deal is closed, buyer comes back complaining that goods were not as specified or as perceived by the buyer at the time of the transaction. Now the question is who is responsible in such cases when something is discovered subsequent to transaction. Is it buyer? or seller?

To solve this problem, we have different principles and one of them is named as caveat venditor.

Caveat venditor is a latin phrase which in English is translated as let the seller beware which in simple words mean that it is seller who is responsible to be aware of the goods being exchanged under the sales transaction and if any defect, deficiency or problem is discovered subsequent to the transaction then seller will be responsible for it and not the buyer. Also, it is seller who should remain vigilant as his lack of knowledge may allow customers to get undue benefit from the seller.

Therefore, seller must make sure that he takes every necessary step that he is not held liable for any problem found in the goods. Although, he can limit his liability by clearly stating it to the buyer that he will not be responsible for any problem in the goods once sold. Due to the same reason we find the statement written “goods once sold are not returned or refunded” in shopping malls.

However, principle states that seller can only limit his liability to the extent the defects were discoverable if the buyer has taken reasonable care when purchasing but he cannot limit his liability in case if defect was not detectable with reasonable inspection. Same is the case with fraud under which supplier cannot exclude himself even if the transaction is completed.

This principle is applied depending on the situation and applicable laws in the country. Historically and still to this day, principle of caveat emptor, completely opposite to the maxim of caveat venditor,  is widely used under which seller is more protected and buyer is required to be diligent. However, last few decades have seen major changes in the customer’s and supplier’s rights especially because of eCommerce where buyer is more protected and now the principle of caveat venditor is getting common.


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