Here's a run-down of some key rights we all have.
All sorts of people sell at boot sales, but most are either professional traders or casual sellers looking to make a few quid out of items they no longer want.
Traders are more tightly regulated than casual sellers, so if you're buying from someone who clearly isn't just flogging the contents of their loft you can expect to see their trading name and address posted on the stall. If there is no such notice, they are breaching the Companies Act. Knowing who you're buying from is very important if your purchase turns out to be a lemon.
There's usually less of an issue with casual or occasional sellers, as the cost of items they are selling tends to be relatively low – and who can really be bothered to argue if they've paid 10p for an Agatha Christie whodunit that has the last page missing?
According to Trading Standards, the most popular stolen items sold at boot sales are power tools, bikes and garden equipment. If you suspect you have bought stolen goods you're entitled to a full refund.
Sharp sales practices
If you get home and discover that some of your booty doesn't stack up, you can take it back. Sellers must not mislead potential customers, either by making claims that aren't true, or leaving out important information that they were aware of – such as if you bought a 'new' item that turns out to be used.
Misleading customers to secure a sale is a breach of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, but these regulations offer another valuable form of protection.
Anyone who has traipsed around a boot sale has probably seen signs plastered around stalls stating 'sold as seen' or 'no refunds'. They may be enough to dissuade some people from successfully challenging a sale, even though they are often incorrect. How can you tell from looking at a digital radio, CD or power tool whether it works? You can't, but it's reasonable to expect it will work.
If it doesn't, you are entitled to a refund.
Mind the quality gap
Boot sales are the natural home of all manner of second-hand goods, some of which may have seen better days. But that won't get sellers off the hook if you buy an item that is not as described.
If this is the case, you can challenge the sale under the Sale of Goods Act 1979, which should result in you being offered a refund or money off.
As you weave in and out of the crowds the chances are you'll spy several stalls selling CDs, designer clothing and DVDs – some of which may be counterfeit. If cash changes hands on something you bought on the basis that is it the real McCoy, but later discover is not legitimate you're entitled to a refund.
If you have any problems getting a refund you can report it to Consumer Direct (0845 040506) or your local Trading Standards office.
No one wants to buy a death-trap, but you'd be surprised how many boot sale bargains can pose a serious health risk.
Children's toys are ones to watch, especially if they are old – and may contain lead paint or have removable parts that reveal sharp ends or spikes. These and other items, such as upholstered furniture, should contain EU safety labels and fire-retardant marks, where relevant.
If they don't, walk away.
Check the quality
Electrical goods are another purchase to take care over. You don't want to buy something that will malfunction or just not work, and you certainly don't want any item to start a fire. Again, you will be relying on the description of these items to be sound, and it's worth checking the product literature and packaging for more information on where they come from and when they were produced.
If you're looking for cheap cosmetics, take a moment to check that the items haven't been used before and are in sealed packaging. As with other items, it's also best to check for BS and EU safety marks.