Understand what you’re buying – insurance experts advise when purchasing second-hand items

Understand what you’re buying – insurance experts advise when purchasing second-hand items

In recent years, there has been a noticeable trend towards purchasing second-hand goods instead of brand new. The cost-of-living crisis and people making a conscious effort to live more sustainably have been cited as significant drivers for the increased demand of preloved items.


In addition to visiting charity shops in search of a bargain, a large number of consumers will be visiting one of the many car boot sales that take place across the county during the summer months. However, to ensure safety, it is essential for sellers and buyers to understand the risk management and legal requirements involved when trading and purchasing second-hand goods.


Sarah Cox, Managing Director of Ansvar, insurance and risk management experts for the charity, not-for-profit and faith sectors, commented:

“The increased demand for second-hand goods can have a positive impact on the local economy and can provide a vital revenue stream for charities.

“When selling items, whether through a shop, car boot sale or online platform, it is down to the seller to ensure everything is in order and the goods are fit for sale. When it comes to selling in aid of a charity, often the items have been kindly donated by members of the public, so it’s vital that due diligence is done to ensure relevant legislations are met.

“If selling for business purposes, which includes charity shops, in addition to general consumer legislation such as the Consumer Rights Act and the General Product Safety Regulations, there are also specific legislations for selling certain categories of second-hand goods including electrical products, furniture, and items for babies and children.”


Electrical products

It is crucial to assess all second-hand items for safety and potential hazards – this is particularly important when selling electrical items. The Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994/2016 and the Plugs and Sockets etc (Safety) Regulations 1994 must be adhered to. It is advisable to have electrical items tested and certified by a competent professional to ensure they meet safety standards. Non-compliant or faulty electrical goods can pose significant risks, including fire hazards or electric shocks.



Items for babies and children

Whether being sold new or second-hand, items such as prams and strollers must be safe, as per the General Product Safety Regulation 2005 and the Furniture and Furnishing (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988. Similar legislation and additional codes of practice also require children’s clothing to be safe. Regulations cover specifications about cords and drawstrings included in children’s clothing, and ensuring the sale of children’s nightwear meets flammability performance requirements.


There are also legal requirements for the sale of toys. Brand new items must comply with the Toys (Safety) Regulations 2011, which require them to be labelled with specific information, and carry warnings and instructions. Toys sold second-hand are covered by the General Product Safety Regulations 2005 and do not need to have the regulatory labels, but must still be safe and carry the warnings and instructions. It is advisable to only sell toys that are CE marked.



Sellers of second-hand furniture must adhere to the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1998. This means furniture must meet specified fire safety requirements and, in most cases, upholstered items must have the ‘Carelessness causes fire’ label intact. There are also specific British Standards for the sale of items such as mattresses and bed bases. Exemptions can include furniture made before 1950 and products such as duvets, curtains and sleeping bags.


Sarah Cox added:

“Those deemed ‘non business traders’, such as people who sell personal items at a car boot or jumble sale, are generally outside of the consumer law regulations; however, a consumer may be able to make a civil claim against a seller if property is damaged or they are injured. It is vital to consider whether the items being sold or bought are fully operational and safe.

“It can therefore be the case that buyers prefer to purchase second-hand electrical items, furniture or baby products from charity shops or licensed traders who must adhere to the legal requirements.”


Ansvar provides a detailed guide for the sale of second-hand items on its website https://www.ansvar.co.uk/home/risk-management-guides-second-hand-goods/.

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