Talking about sale of goods, doctrine of Caveat Emptor means `let the buyer beware’. When in the market the seller puts his goods for sale he will not be held liable if any defect is found it is upon the buyer to detect if there is any fault in the goods he buys the seller will not be held liable. It was upon the buyer to make selection, even when the seller is aware of the defects in the good he is not liable to disclose it.

When the doctrine of caveat emptor came into existence the approach towards it was absolute. There was no `reasonable’ examination that existed before and the doctrine was characterized as detrimental to the development of trade and commerce. Another reason was to provide adequate protection to buyer who buys the article in good faith. The doctrine of Caveat Venditor is comparatively very new and needs time to evolve as protector of the rights of buyer .

Comprehensive study of Doctrine of Caveat Emptor and Caveat Venditor

 Any market should be as such where there is fair equality of opportunity. To explain this consider a number of men to divide

an uncut pizza. To have a fair division, the best solution is to let one man divide the pizza and get the last piece, the others being allowed their pick before him. He will divide the pizza equally because in this way he assures for himself the largest share possible. This example demonstrates perfect procedural justice and explains what a fair division is.To achieve this ideology, the State ensured the protection by enactment of various laws and the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 is the biggest step taken.

The mechanism has now evolved from Caveat Emptor to Caveat Venditor. “Let the buyer beware” was the slogan about three decades ago which has been changed to “Let the seller beware” with the coming of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 in the Indian Legal System.Under the principle of caveat emptor, the buyer could not recover damages from the seller for defects on the property that renders the property unfit for ordinary purposes.In the UK, consumer law has moved away from the caveat emptor model, with laws passed that have enhanced consumer rights and allow greater pathway to return goods that do not meet standards of acceptance.

As one would trace its origin, the philosophy behind the rule of Caveat Emptor was basically the reliance placed by the customer on his own skill or judgment . it’s supported the basic premise that when a buyer satisfies himself on the suitability of the product for his use, he would subsequently haven’t any right to reject identical. The rule of principle, because it prevailed at the days of its origin, was quite rigid.

If one goes through English Sale of Goods Act, 1893, it’s not only noticeable but quite evident that the seller’s duties on disclosure requirements when a product is sold was minimal. Buyer’s examination of the products was considered over and above any duty upon the vendor to supply information. Concepts like `fitness of goods’ and `productivity’, which  won’t shift the burden of quality and fitness on the vendor, weren’t encouraged. Another strong point , which was present within the act, was within the variety of Section 11(1)(c), which mandated that in cases where there was a sale of `specific’ goods, the customer couldn’t reject the products on any ground.

Thus it is noted that the law being bent within the favor of the vendor, and in those times, one couldn’t even contemplate a corresponding rule, which might put the burden on the vendor (caveat venditor).

There was a fallacy and need for change as the approach which was adapted was later characterized as detrimental to the development of commerce and trade. Another sound reason, which can be thought of for the dilution of the rule of caveat emptor, is to provide adequate protection to the buyer who buys the good in good faith. Therefore to provide a good relationship between the buyer and the seller and to keep proper checks and balances, there was need to dissolve the rule subsequently.


For the reasons stated above, the rule of caveat emptor, as far as precedent goes, for the first time suffered by the case of Priest v. Last1 in which for the first time, the dependence placed by the seller for the purposes of buying a `hot water bottle’ was taken into consideration for the purposes of allowing the buyer to reject the goods. This decision was the first detectable decision in common law which gave importance to the reliance placed by the buyer on the seller’s skill and judgment. This hint of law, however, is a settled principle of law today i.e. doctrine of Caveat Venditor.

With its origin being traced within the need for disclosure of data for the needs of facilitating the explanation for purchase of the customer, gradually this rule has gained prominence and also the obligations of the vendor are given proper shape together with various statutes and case laws limiting the rule of Caveat Emptor to `reasonable examination’. Examples like beer contaminated with arsenic , milk-containing typhoid germs are adequate to determine that courts are generous enough to exempt the customer from the duty to look at the products where the defects couldn’t be traced in ordinary circumstances.


1 Priest v Last [1903] 2 KB 148


It can be concluded from the above analysis that the rule of caveat emptor is slowly escaping and is being taken over by the subsequent rule of caveat venditor, the changes being attributed to a more consumer oriented market wherein commercial transactions are being encouraged. Such a change, will not only help create an appropriate balance between the rights and obligations of the seller and the buyer. But it should be noted that if this rend of change is taken too far, we might end up in recording transactions due to the approach then becoming extremely pro-buyer who might misuse the protection under law.



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