Sadly we frequently see reports of horsebox accidents which highlight the importance of making sure the vehicle you are using is safe and appropriate.
As a driver, you should check that not only the horsebox is safe as a vehicle (for you, any passengers and other road users) but also the precious and fragile cargo in the rear (the horses!).
A key factor in the safety of your horses when travelling in a horsebox is the stability and durability of the flooring. Horses are very heavy and sadly there have been numerous cases of horses falling through faulty or ageing flooring, often without warning and sometimes with tragic consequences.
Defective flooring is not just an issue with the old horsebox which has been sat in the yard for years without proper maintenance. Numerous buyers have found themselves with a problematic newly purchased vehicle.
When purchasing a horsebox, it is important to check whether it is being sold by a business or individual. If the seller is a business and you are a consumer (buying goods for personal use), it is likely that the sale will fall under Consumer Rights legislation. This states that every contract to supply goods (which includes horseboxes) includes a term that the quality of the goods is satisfactory. It should take into account the description of the goods, the price paid and any other relevant circumstances.
If the floor is not visible or cannot easily be inspected, you would likely be relying on what’s been said by the seller, either in an advert or during the sales process. If you have been able to inspect the floor and can see that it appears damaged, rotten or unsuitable for a horse to travel on, you would be entering into a contract on notice of the problem. This may prevent you bringing a claim in the future.
Where Consumer Rights law applies, the contract must also be treated as including a term that the goods are reasonably fit for their intended purpose. You may have difficulty with this if there is evidence to show that you did not rely on the skill or judgment of the seller when buying the lorry (e.g. you or your own mechanic inspected it).
You cannot always expect the quality of the goods to be perfect or even near perfect. Whilst there are some protections under the legislation, it varies depending on the circumstances. Those circumstances include how much you paid and what you’re intending to do with the vehicle. For example, you can expect much more from a brand new £100,000 horsebox than a thirty-year-old £1,000 horsebox. Likewise, you cannot expect a horsebox designed and advertised as suitable for two ponies to carry a team of shire horses.
Our examples are obviously extreme, but we have come across several cases involving mid-priced items which allows scope for arguments about what the buyer should be able to expect for their money. Some sellers are aware that the buyer cannot expect perfection. But clearly, there is a significant difference between a worn driver’s seat cushion and a rotten floor a horse could fall through.
‘Buyer beware’ does not strictly apply when a consumer buys a product from a business. Our advice is that the buyer should always beware and make sure they are comfortable with what they are buying. There are plenty of organisations who will do a pre-purchase inspection (for a fee) which is sensible bearing in mind the risks.
Significant problems can also arise when buying from another consumer (private sales often through classified ads or Facebook) where buyer beware very much applies and online ‘auction’ sites where sales are predominantly by description. There are very few protections if you have bought from an individual and you should be particularly careful in these circumstances as Consumer Rights legislation won’t protect you.
A startling number of “private sales” are in fact business sales, where the business is trying to get around the law.
Our top tip!
Do your homework and keep records of what you find – if the seller has sold ten horseboxes in the last month they are unlikely to be a private seller!
Posted on September 13, 2019