First of all it’s important to realise that if you purchased something from someone and you didn’t realise it was stolen, you’ve done nothing illegal.
HOWEVER, it’s vital to A) check the item wasn’t stolen & B) if you have any suspicion report it to the Police (dial 101)
NEVER keep the item, NEVER return it to the seller yourself, doing so could be classed as ‘handling stolen goods’, which is illegal.
- Report it to the Police (dial 101), they will provide you with a crime reference number & property log number (once you had the item to the Police)
- Contact the seller and ask for a refund, showing proof that you’ve handed them to the Police & proof of the original purchase etc. When buying something it’s very important to get a receipt with their real name and signature agreeing to the purchase/, if they won’t provide this then alarm bells should ring!
- Did you purchase BEFORE 1st October 2015
If yes, The seller should refund you but they can reduce this amount down compared with the amount of use you had, e.g. £100 item, used for 6 months, a ‘fair’ refund could be £65-£80 however it’s important to request a full refund.
What should I tell the seller? “I’ve handed this item to the Police <reference number> and they’ve confirmed that the item was stolen, you didn’t have the legal right to sell me this item so I’m ending the consumer contract we had and asking for a full refund as a form of damages”
- Did you purchase AFTER 1st October 2015, good news, the law changed and you’re entitled to a full refund.
What should I tell the seller? “I’ve handed this item to the Police <reference number> and they’ve confirmed that the item was stolen, you didn’t have the legal right to sell me this item and therefore I’m entitled to a full refund under the Consumer Rights Act 2015.”
- Paid by debit? If the seller doesn’t respond or doesn’t refund you, then contact your bank (the quicker the better) and request a Chargeback, effectively the bank automatically refunds you the money, if they say they don’t do it then speak with a manager at your bank and explain it all, you will need your crime reference number and possibly need to prove the purchase (easier if you have a receipt).
- Paid by credit card? Was the item over £100? If yes then ‘make a section 75 claim’. Effectively the same as chargeback but the credit card company takes the hit and they then will fight for their money back from the seller.
- Still not had your money back? It’s time to consider your small claims court action (or similar)
Handling stolen goods is punishable by prison. The definition of this offence under section 22(1) of the Theft Act 1968 is:
“A person handles stolen goods if knowing or believing them to be stolen goods he dishonestly receives the goods, or dishonestly undertakes or assists in their retention, removal, disposal or realisation by or for the benefit of another person, or if he arranges to do so.”
Image source/thanks: Bedfordshire Police