Section 13 of the Sale of Goods Act 1979

Based on a long common law history and once an important measure in sales contracts, s.13 Sale of Goods Act 1979 has now become unnecessary and irrelevant.’


Don't use plagiarized sources. Get Your Custom Essay on
Section 13 of the Sale of Goods Act 1979
Get a PLAGIARISM-FREE custom essay written for you!
Order Essay

Section 13 of the Sale of Goods Act 1979 was previously considered an important measure in sales contracts.It now appears irrelevant and unnecessary and therefore in need of abandonment.This essay will discuss why s.13 is no longer relevant by analysing its flaws and demonstrating how the requirement that ‘goods must match their description’ can be enforced elsewhere.

Overview of Section 13 Sale of Goods Act 1979

Section 13 of the Sale of Goods Act (SGA) 1979 states that where there is a contract for the sale of goods by description, there exists an implied term that the goods will correspond with that description.This section only applies to goods that are sold by their description only.

If the buyer has the chance to see the goods before making their purchase, then this section cannot be relied upon. An example of this can be seen in the case of Harlingdon & Leinster v Christopher Hull Fine Art [1991] 1 QB 564 where goods were described as a Gabrielle Munter painting in an auction catalogue.

Both the buyers and sellers were London art dealers, yet the sellers were not experts in German paintings whilst the buyers were. The buyers also sent there experts to inspect the painting before agreeing to purchase the painting for ?6000. The buyers sought to rely on s.13 when it was found that the painting was a fake, but it was held that the sale was not by description because an expert had been sent to inspect the painting. This indicates that even if goods are originally being sold by description, once a buyer has had the opportunity to inspect the goods they can no longer seek protection under s.13.

Rejection of Goods not Matching Exact Description

In Arcos v Ranaason [1933] AC 470 it was demonstrated that the duty of the seller is extremely strict (Atiya et al; 2010: 154). Here, a buyer was entitled to reject goods that were described as being 1/2 an inch thick on the basis that some of them were slightly less than this. Even though the quality of the goods was not affected, it was said that the goods were not as described and could therefore be rejected. This is likely to cause many problems as the purchaser in the Arcos case had simply changed his mind about purchasing the goods and then sought to rely on s.13 to reject them even though the description did not prevent him from using the goods for their intended purpose. As s.13 is narrowly interpreted, it is capable of being used in circumstances that would seem inappropriate. In Re Moore & Landauer [1921] 2 KB 519 it was held that the purchaser was entitled to reject goods that were described as being packed in cases of 30 when they were packed in cases of 24. This was despite the fact that the overall number of goods was correct. Arguably, s.13 is interpreted very strictly and a slight deviation from the description of the goods will be enough for a purchaser to reject them.

Narrow Interpretation of Section 13

As pointed out by the Department of Business Innovation and Skills; “Description takes on a very narrow meaning, referring only to the commercial characteristics of the goods” (BIS, 2010: 24). Statements that have been made about the goods, or aspects of the specification of the goods are not covered by s.13, illustrating it’s restrictiveness (Ashington Piggeries Ltd. v Christopher Hill Ltd. [1971] 1 All ER 847). This section also appears to conflict with the European Union Directive 99/44/EC which provides that the “description” of goods will also include the “description given by the seller”. The Directive thus appears to encompass a wider range of characteristics, thereby providing extra protection to the sale of goods. Sections 3, 8, 11C and 11I of the Supply of Goods and Services Act (SGSA) 1982 and s.9 of the Supply of Goods (Implied Terms) Act (SG(IT)A) 1973 also have identical provisions to s.13. Because of this, it is questionable why s.13 is needed given that its application is extremely rigid. The requirement that goods must match their description can be found in other pieces of legislation, thus demonstrating that s.13 is no longer necessary or relevant.

Section 13 Unnecessary and Irrelevant

Section 13 was originally only supposed to apply to commercial sales of unascertained or future goods (Brown, 1990: 561). In such instances, a description of the goods would have been a necessary requisite which sellers would have provided to purchasers before a sales contract was entered into (Sealey and Hooley, 2008: 401). Since the Harlingdon & Leinster case, however, it seems as though s.13 is now being applied to sales of specific goods. Reliance upon description is not an essential ingredient, which is unjustifiable in that contracts can be rescinded in circumstances which they would not otherwise have been. The parties will also be required to demonstrate that they intended for the description to be a term of the contract if they want to find a breach of contract; Drake v Thos Agnew & Sons Ltd [2002] EWHC 294 (QB). Consequently, s.13 is no longer relevant in the 21st century as protection can be sought against wrongly described goods through other provisions.


Overall, it seems as though s.13 is in fact irrelevant and unnecessary in the 21st Century. Whilst it was previously thought to be an important component is contract sales, it is no longer required as a result of superseding legislation and because of its narrow interpretation by the courts. It could be argued that s.13 therefore needs abandoning as it seems to prevent purchasers from rescinding a contract if they had a chance to inspect goods even if they were later found to be fraudulent. This is largely unfair as a fraudulent painting may not be easily identifiable at first and may require a more thorough inspection which could not be achieved without first making a purchase. Whilst goods must always match their description, goods which fail to do so will be protected through other legislative provisions. As such, s. 13 is no longer needed and does not seem as relevant as it once was.


  • Atiya, P. S. Adams, J. and Macqueen, L H. (2010) Atiya’s Sale of Goods, Pearson Education, 12th Edition.
  • Brown, I. (1990) ‘Forgery, Fine Art and the Sale of Goods’ Law Quarterly Review, 561-564.
  • Department for Business Innovation & Skills. (2010) ‘Consolidation and Simplification of UK Consumer Law’ BIS, <> accessed 08 December 2014.
  • Sealey, L. S. and Hooley, R. J. A. (2008) Commercial Law: Text, Cases and Ma terials, OUP Oxford, 4th Edition.

Case Law

  • Arcos v Ranaason [1933] AC 470
  • Ashington Piggeries Ltd. v Christopher Hill Ltd. [1971] 1 All ER 847
  • Drake v Thos Agnew & Sons Ltd [2002] EWHC 294 (QB)
  • Harlingdon & Leinster v Christopher Hull Fine Art [1991] 1 QB 564
  • Re Moore & Landauer [1921] 2 KB 519.

Homework Paper
Calculate your paper price
Pages (550 words)
Approximate price: -

Our Advantages

Plagiarism Free Papers

All our papers are original and written from scratch. We will email you a plagiarism report alongside your completed paper once done.

Free Revisions

All papers are submitted ahead of time. We do this to allow you time to point out any area you would need revision on, and help you for free.

Free Title-page

A title page preceeds all your paper content. Here, you put all your personal information and this we give out for free.

Free Bibliography

Without a reference/bibliography page, any academic paper is incomplete and doesnt qualify for grading. We also offer this for free.

Originality & Security

At Homework Sharks, we take confidentiality seriously and all your personal information is stored safely and do not share it with third parties for any reasons whatsoever. Our work is original and we send plagiarism reports alongside every paper.

24/7 Customer Support

Our agents are online 24/7. Feel free to contact us through email or talk to our live agents.

Try it now!

Calculate the price of your order

We'll send you the first draft for approval by at
Total price:

How it works?

Follow these simple steps to get your paper done

Place your order

Fill in the order form and provide all details of your assignment.

Proceed with the payment

Choose the payment system that suits you most.

Receive the final file

Once your paper is ready, we will email it to you.

Our Services

We work around the clock to see best customer experience.


Flexible Pricing

Our prces are pocket friendly and you can do partial payments. When that is not enough, we have a free enquiry service.


Admission help & Client-Writer Contact

When you need to elaborate something further to your writer, we provide that button.


Paper Submission

We take deadlines seriously and our papers are submitted ahead of time. We are happy to assist you in case of any adjustments needed.


Customer Feedback

Your feedback, good or bad is of great concern to us and we take it very seriously. We are, therefore, constantly adjusting our policies to ensure best customer/writer experience.