When you want to reject goods you bought online

It can be quite frustrating when the vendor refuses a return of defective supply

In Summary

• Online vendors have dodgy return policies, so when is a good deemed accepted?


I am among the people in Gen Z who are old souls. From my taste in music to my conduct, a lot about how I live my life is not urban. This also extends to my adaptation to new technologies. In a generation where people do shopping online and have someone to deliver the goods, I prefer doing it the old-school way. Go to the shop in person and see what it is you are buying. Never have I ever done online shopping.

The relevance of my intro comes here. I have seen stories over the Internet where people ordered goods online and in the pictures, whatever they ordered looked wonderful. But when it was delivered, what they got was far much different from whatever they saw. This has often caused jitters, with some shoppers threatening to cancel such online shopping platforms.

Whenever such buyers seek to return the goods, they face the challenge of who to even send them to because chances are the seller has no physical location. But the greater challenge comes in when they are hit with that, “Goods once sold cannot be returned.” At least with the old-school shopping, this risk is much lower. But then when are goods said to be sold?

When a buyer orders goods, they have an obligation to receive the goods, accept them and make the payment for them. At that point, the goods are then sold. One important thing to note is that the acceptance of the goods by the buyer is key in order for a sale to take place.

Acceptance may happen expressly, whereby the buyer informs the seller that they have accepted the goods. Or impliedly, when the buyer does something inconsistent with the rights of the seller. For instance, if a person buys cups online and uses them to serve tea to their visitors, at that point, what they have done is inconsistent with the rights of the seller. That constitutes acceptance.

The challenge many online buyers face is when the goods are delivered and they are not satisfied with what they have received. The Sale of Goods Act provides that a buyer who has not had an opportunity to inspect goods cannot be said to have accepted the goods until they get that opportunity. Such a buyer can, therefore, reject the goods and reclaim any money paid.

With some goods, the buyer can only ascertain their fitness for purpose by using them. For instance, a person who buys a tractor to till their land can only ascertain its fitness for purpose upon using it in the farm. If they use it and find it not fit for purpose, they have every right to reject it, notwithstanding the fact that they used it in the farm.

A buyer also has the right to request for more time to ascertain the fitness of the goods for the purpose sought. Where the buyer makes no communication of acceptance or rejection but retains the goods for a lengthy period of time, they will be deemed as having accepted them.

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