Caveat emptor

Caveat emptor

Caveat emptor (play /ˌkævɑːt ˈɛmptɔr/) is Latin for "Let the buyer beware".[1] Generally, caveat emptor is the property law doctrine that controls the sale of real property after the date of closing.



Under the doctrine of caveat emptor, the buyer could not recover from the seller for defects on the property that rendered the property unfit for ordinary purposes. The only exception was if the seller actively concealed latent defects or otherwise made material misrepresentations amounting to fraud.

Before statutory law, the buyer had no warranty of the quality of goods. In many jurisdictions now, the law requires that goods must be of "merchantable quality". However, this implied warranty can be difficult to enforce and may not apply to all products. Hence, buyers are still advised to be cautious.

United States

The modern trend in the US, however, is one of the Implied Warranty of Fitness that applies only to the sale of new residential housing by a builder-seller and the caveat emptor rule applies to all other sale situations (i.e. homeowner to buyer).[2] Many other jurisdictions have provisions similar to this.

In addition to the quality of the merchandise, this phrase also applies to the return policy. In most jurisdictions, there is no legal requirement for the vendor to provide a refund or exchange. In many cases, the vendor will not provide a refund but will provide a credit. In the cases of software, movies and other copyrighted material, many vendors will only do a direct exchange for another copy of exactly the same title. Most stores require proof of purchase and impose time limits on exchanges or refunds. However, some larger chain stores will do exchanges or refunds at any time, with or without proof of purchase, although they usually require a form of picture ID and place quantity or dollar limitations on such returns.

Laidlaw v. Organ,[3] a decision written in 1817 by Chief Justice John Marshall, is believed by scholars to have been the first U.S. Supreme Court case which laid down the rule of caveat emptor in U.S. law.[4]

United Kingdom

In the UK, consumer law has moved away from the caveat emptor model, with laws passed that have enhanced consumer rights and allow greater leeway to return goods that do not meet legal standards of acceptance.[5] Consumer purchases are regulated by The Sale of Goods Act.

In the UK, consumers have the right to a full refund for faulty goods, however by convention, most retail companies will allow customers to return goods within a specified period (typically a month or two) for a full refund or an exchange, even if there is no fault with the product. Exceptions may apply for goods sold as damaged or to clear.

Goods bought via 'distance selling', for example online or via phone, also have a statutory 'cooling off' period of seven working days. To cancel the contract is to treat the contract as if it had not been made, except that the Regulations refer to the terms.

Although no longer applied in consumer law, the principle of caveat emptor is generally held to apply to transactions between businesses unless it can be shown that the seller had a clear information advantage over the buyer that could not have been removed by carrying out reasonable due diligence.

Caveat venditor

Caveat venditor is Latin for "let the seller beware". It is a counter to caveat emptor and suggests that sellers can also be deceived in a market transaction. This forces the seller to take responsibility for the product and discourages sellers from selling products of unreasonable quality.

In the landmark case of MacPherson v. Buick Motor Co. (1916), New York Court Appeals Judge Benjamin N. Cardozo established that privity of duty is no longer required in regard to a lawsuit for product liability against the seller. This case is widely regarded as the origin of caveat venditor as it pertains to modern tort law in US.

See also



  1. ^ "Caveat emptor - Definition from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary". Merriam-Webster, Incorporated. Retrieved 2008-03-30. 
  2. ^ See Stambovsky v. Ackley, 572 N.Y.S.2d 672 (N.Y. App. 1991).
  3. ^ 15 U.S. 178 (1817)
  4. ^ Kaye, Joshua. "Disclosure, Information, the Law of Contracts, and the Mistaken Use of Laidlaw v. Organ." Unpublished. 2007. p. 2.
  5. ^ "Trader's Guide to Civil Law". Trading Standards. Retrieved 2007-11-29. 

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • caveat emptor — caveat emp·tor / emp tər, ˌtȯr/ n [New Latin, may the buyer beware]: a principle in commercial transactions: without a warranty the buyer takes the risk as to the condition of the property or goods compare products liability at liability 2b,… …   Law dictionary

  • Caveat Emptor — est une expression latine signifiant « que l acheteur soit vigilant ». Dans certaines juridictions, l acheteur n avait aucune garantie sur la qualité des produits. Aujourd hui, les lois de plusieurs pays exigent que le produit respecte… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Caveat emptor — Caveat Ca ve*at, n. [L. caved let him beware, pres. subj. of cavere to be on one s guard to, beware.] [1913 Webster] 1. (Law) A notice given by an interested party to some officer not to do a certain act until the party is heard in opposition; as …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Caveat emptor — est une expression latine signifiant « que l acheteur soit vigilant ». Dans certaines juridictions, l acheteur n avait aucune garantie sur la qualité des produits. Aujourd hui, les lois de plusieurs pays exigent que le produit respecte… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • caveat emptor — Latin, lit. let the buyer beware; see CAVEAT (Cf. caveat) and EXEMPT (Cf. exempt) (adj.) …   Etymology dictionary

  • Caveat emptor — ist lateinisch für ‚Der Käufer muss Acht geben‘, auch ‚Der Käufer möge sich hüten‘. Vor der gesetzlichen Verankerung der Gewährleistung im modernen Zivilrecht hatte ein Käufer gewöhnlich keinerlei Garantie für die Qualität der Ware, wenn er nicht …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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  • caveat emptor — [emp′tôr΄] [L] let the buyer beware (i.e., one buys at one s own risk) …   English World dictionary

  • caveat emptor — let the buyer beware. The condition of sale is that the purchase is at the buyer s risk. Glossary of Business Terms Latin expressions for buyer beware and seller beware, which warn of overly risky, inadequately protected markets. Bloomberg… …   Financial and business terms

  • caveat emptor — /kav ee aht emp tawr, at , kah vee , kay /; Lat. /kah we aht emp tohrdd/. let the buyer beware: the principle that the seller of a product cannot be held responsible for its quality unless it is guaranteed in a warranty. [1515 25; < L] * * * ▪… …   Universalium

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