Buying from a private seller online

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When a consumer buys from a private individual seller who is not running an online business, this is called a consumer-to-consumer transaction. Examples include a person selling:

  • a set of golf clubs on Gumtree
  • a vintage dress on eBay
  • used books on Amazon.

Note: the seller may be running a business if they:

  • list an Australian Business Number (ABN) or company name on their web page or profile
  • have a high volume of items for sale or
  • have been trading for a number of years

For more information, go to Buying from an Australian business online.

If there is a problem with the product

Step 1: Know your rights

The Australian Consumer Law does not apply when a consumer buys from a private seller (and the item is not sold in the course of their business).

However, consumers are still guaranteed clear title of the item, unless they were told otherwise before the sale. This means that the seller must ensure that no one will try to repossess or take back the item (for example, if it was stolen or sold without the owner’s consent); and that there is no money owning on the item.

The seller may also have their own refunds and returns policy with additional rights. Read the policy on their web page or profile.

Step 2: Contacting the seller

Consumers should contact the seller to negotiate a solution.

Use our complaint letter or email template, and read our example below:

Step 3: Taking a complaint further

If the seller does not resolve the consumer’s issue, what they do next depends on where and how they bought the item.

If the consumer bought products or services from an online auction site, such as eBay or Gumtree, they should first refer to the dispute resolution options available on the online auction's site.

For example, consumers can report an issue to eBay's Resolution Centre between four and 32 days after the sale. They can open a case in the Resolution Centre regardless of how they bought the item i.e., via an auction or 'Buy it now'.

Note: If consumers buy through an online auction site and pay via PayPal, they will be automatically directed to the PayPal Resolution Centre. See below.

Consumers may also post feedback about the seller on the auction site.

Depending on how consumers paid for the products or services, the following dispute resolution options may be available:

Payment method

What to do

Paid via PayPal

File a dispute through PayPal's Resolution Centre within 180 days of paying for the item.

Consumers may be covered by PayPal’s Buyer Protection.

Paid via credit card

Contact the provider to organise a chargeback (this effectively reverses the credit card charge, and is similar to a refund). For more information, go to Chargeback. Note: a chargeback is a process with the bank or credit card provider, separate from any other dispute resolution service such as those with eBay or PayPal.

Paid via online cash transfer

If consumers used an instant cash transfer system (such as Western Union or MoneyGram) or deposited money directly into the seller's bank account, it can be very difficult to track the money once the seller has collected it. In this case, consumers should contact the police.

Consumers can also make a claim through a tribunal or court. If the seller is based:

  • in Victoria, make a claim for compensation to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) under the Civil Claims List – visit the VCAT website
  • interstate, lodge a claim with the tribunal in the state where the seller lives
  • overseas, seek independent legal advice.

Although we cannot resolve disputes arising from consumer-to-consumer sales, we can provide you with further advice. Contact us.