Basically, is 'I think...' weasel words I need to learn to spot?

More context:

Car dealer told us on car inspection 'I think there are two alarm fobs for this car'.

When the car turned up on delivery there was only one.

Car dealer naturally thinks that 'think' doesn't imply 'know'.

I naturally think that 'think' equates to 'know'.

That's the basics of it but perhaps upping complexity a small notch: if they said 'I think that there are two, but I'll need to check' - but then did not advise the result of the check, and then tried to pull a 'you didn't ask if I had checked so it's your fault' approach, does that change anything?

(he says he said he'd need to check, but I don't think he did - regardless, I'd like to know the legal implications either way)

None of this was in writing.

2 Answers 2


If this is a consumer transaction covered by Australian Consumer Law "I think" = "I know". Any other interpretation would mean that the vendor had engaged in deceptive and misleading conduct - that is, acting in a way where a reasonable person could be deceived.

For your examples:

  1. You would be entitled to the 2nd fob.
  2. Even in the second case, you would be entitled to the 2nd fob. This is because he accepted the onus to check, if he didn't, or didn't advise you of the result, then his conduct has allowed the misapprehension of "I think" to remain.
  • It is NZ law... I assume very similar? Nov 23, 2015 at 4:18
  • Maybe ... different countries, different rules.
    – Dale M
    Nov 23, 2015 at 4:22

I would think tone of voice would probably matter, especially emphasis on the word 'think.'

I would also think context would matter. Is the car dealer supposed to be an authoritative source for information? If so, then he has informed you of what he thinks and it is reasonable for you to act based upon that authoritative source of information. If not, then the context would have to suggest that he is merely acting as a messenger for information on the car, not a source of authoritative information. It would then therefore not be reasonable for you to act based upon what he says he thinks.

"I think, but I'll need to check" definitely puts the onus on you not to act until the checking is completed.

  • The dealer in question is the owner/operator of the car yard. He has ultimate responsibility for the cars in his yard. So the 'but I'll have to check?' gets him out of it huh? I don't recall him saying that but I think he's figured out it's a way out for him. With regards to this key issue, it was all spoken, so if it went to a disputes court (there are some other issues I have more clear legal leverage with) it's basically his word against mine right? And he has all this time to 'weasel-word-a-fy' his 'recollection' to his advantage? (as do I, I suppose ... >>rolleyes<<) Nov 23, 2015 at 0:47
  • Hey, this isn't legal advice. My qualifications here are a bachelor's degree in Economics. But I wouldn't say "it gets him out of it." I would say that puts the onus on you to wait until he checks.
    – Mr. A
    Nov 23, 2015 at 9:15

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