Suppose Alice buys a car from Bob. In the case the car was stated in the advert as the top of the range model but was in actuality the model below badged as the top one Alice would have some protections. In the UK the statutory right of being 'as described' applies in the civil system. If Bob had after the sale talked on social media about how he knew it was mislabelled and sold it anyway, and how Alice was stupid for not just looking up on the number plate on the DVLA or the many other sites that repackage this information there may be questions of criminal charges, potentially fraud.

What would be the situation if it was the other way around? The car was advertised as the model below, but was in actuality the top model badged as the lower one. Alice purchased the car and later talks online about how she had prior to the deal looked up online and found the true model, but not informed the seller. Would the seller have any comeback on the deal through the civil system? Could Alice be potentially charged with a crime?

As far as jurisdiction is concerned, I care a bit more about the UK but answers for any would be interesting.

  • 1
    Hi. I'm afraid this would very strongly depend on the details and specifics of the situation. If the car's usual price is 9000£, and because of a mistake it was for sale at 6000£, and Alice had looked the usual price online and knew that it was usually 9000£, it's not going to be fraud just because she gloats about having bought it at a lower price. But if it can be argued that she deceived the seller into thinking that they were selling a different car, then it could be fraud. So, there are arguments for both sides, and it would strongly depend on the details.
    – Stef
    Jan 13 at 18:29

1 Answer 1


Anything you say must be accurate, but you don’t have to say anything

I’m assuming that Bob and Alice are private individuals not in the business of buying/selling cars so we can ignore statutory consumer protection law which imposes additional obligations on businesses.

The common law of misrepresentation is symmetrical- it applies equally to sellers and buyers.

Naturally, misrepresentations by sellers are more common than by buyers, simply because the seller is typically disclosing more facts than the buyer. But, say Alice falsely stated that she represented an antique automobile museum and Bob’s car would be a prominent exhibit, that would be misrepresentation by Alice.

As stated in the headline, any facts disclosed must be correct, but there is no general obligation to disclose any. Silence, in the absence of a legal obligation to disclose (for example, Health and Safety law may require the disclosure of non-operable safety equipment), is not generally a misrepresentation unless it distorts a representation already made: “it was only driven by my granny [in illegal street races 3 times a week].”

So, as stated in the question, if Bob has made a misrepresentation to Alice, then she has a cause of action. If Alice has not made any representations, Bob has no cause of action. However, if Alice made the check discovering that the car was better than Bob said and then told him it was worse (a misrepresentation), and that induced Bob to enter the contract at a lower price, Bob would have a cause of action.

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