How Caveat Venditor overrode Caveat Emptor?

SANDHYA PRABHAKARAN
The Shadow
Published in
4 min readFeb 19, 2021

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Source: Author

The term ‘Caveat Emptor’ originated from Latin which means ‘Buyer Beware’. This principle says that the responsibility of the choice of buying any product or availing any service lies with the buyers themselves.

In legal terms under Section 16 of the Sale of Goods Act, 1930, it is clearly defined that, “There is no implied warranty or condition as to the quality or condition or the fitness for any particular purpose of goods supplied under such a contract of sale.”

A buyer has to make choices accordingly by scrutinizing well the goods that he is going to buy. If the product is found to have any defect or is of inferior quality or if it doesn't live up to its potential then according to this rule the seller will not be responsible so this doctrine ensures that the buyer’s choice should be made with consciousness. It becomes the buyer’s duty to check the quality, standards, and adequacy of the product he is buying.

In a nutshell, it basically says that the buyer must make a wise choice and scrutinize the product well before buying any product. The main philosophy behind this doctrine of caveat emptor was that the buyer should be applying his own judgment and skills before he concludes to buy any product. Also, after buying the product the purchaser can protect himself by using the warranty of the product.

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There are cases when a buyer can shift his responsibility to the seller:

  1. If the buyer tells the seller his purpose for purchase — it means that if the person buying a particular product informs the seller of the reason for purchasing such product, then it becomes the responsibility of the seller to take into consideration the purpose of usage of the product and provide one that meets the suitability of the purpose. For example, I go to a shoe selling showroom and inform the seller that I want sports shoes to participate in a race, then it becomes the obligation of the seller to provide me with sports shoes only and not casual shoes.
  2. The buyer relies on the knowledge and/or technical expertise of the seller — it means that if the buyer wants an expert opinion about any product then the buyer believes that the seller shall give some good advice about which brand, features, and other requirements will be suitable for the type product which the buyer wants. For example, if I want to buy a face cream that will help me clear acne on my face and I inform the same to seller and ask for her advice as to which face cream will be suitable for my skin, then the seller should advise me to use a particular cream accordingly.

In the modern era, with laws related to Consumer Protection, this doctrine has started to fade away. This principle was felt to be detrimental for the buyers as there was a lack of reasonable analysis. So, buyers felt that they won’t have any resort against the seller who had previous knowledge about the defects in the products yet had concealed the facts. Also, the buyers required some protection who purchases products and avails services bona fide, i.e., in good faith and relies upon the judgment of the seller. Hence, the doctrine of caveat emptor was eventually weakened. Buyers felt cheated when they got no recourse if the products were defective or if there were a deficiency in the services provided. Thus, this rule was overridden by the Doctrine of Caveat Venditor.

Caveat Venditor is yet another Latin term that means ‘Seller Beware’. As consumer awareness started to spread faster, the requirement of this principle of caveat venditor came into the picture. People felt the need for full disclosure of the information regarding the products sold to them. Gradually this doctrine started gaining recognition and the seller’s obligations increased along with various statutes and case laws. This doctrine of caveat venditor started evolving through judicial disclosure as it was perceived that the doctrine of caveat emptor was at odds with the law of equity. But, the doctrine of caveat venditor inflicts a substantial amount of responsibility on the sellers. It is inferred from the new doctrine that there is an implicit warranty for the products and the buyer of products is not required to perform assiduity to verify the quality of such products. It is now the burden of the seller to ensure that the buyer makes a reasonably informed choice and must provide compensation to the buyers if the products are found to be defective.

Source: Author

We can say that the doctrine of caveat emptor is being taken over by the doctrine of caveat venditor and is fading away. This change has gradually induced a consumer-oriented market where commercial transactions are encouraged and such change has brought up a more consumer-friendly market with a pertinent balance of the rights and responsibilities of both the buyer as well as the seller.

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SANDHYA PRABHAKARAN
The Shadow

BBA LL.B. (H) @ ALSN | In the process of building a career in the legal field.