Caveat Emptor is an ancient Latin maxim relevant in common law that means ‘let the buyer beware’. It is used in theresolution of disputes arising on the question of goods, services and property. In contract law, it cautions the buyer and places him into an obligation to perform the due diligence and examination before making the purchase. It is also a vital rule in the Sale of Goods Act, 1930 wherein it holds the purchaser responsible for his decision to purchase.
In the case of Mariappan v Inspector General of Registration, Department of Registration, Chennai and others, the court applied the principle of caveat emptor in stating that the buyer ought to have exercised due diligence before buying the item.
Similarly, in the case of Rekha Sahu v UCO Bank and Others, the court applied caveat emptor to state that the buyer must verify the title of the property before purchase or else would invite complications.
However, the use of caveat emptor has declined with the rise of consumerism and Consumer Protection Laws in business and commercial transactions in India. Instead, contemporary times find the principle to be replaced by that of caveat venditor. This was necessitated by the fact that the realm of modern trade and commercial relationships were changing and the principle ought to change in line to it. This maxim, meaning ‘let the seller beware’ places an obligation on the seller to disclose all appropriate information of the item of sale, especially with regard to deformities. It is now the duty of the seller to make sure that the buyer makes an informed choice and to compensate for defective products. It also places an implied warranty on each item such that the buyer need not perform his due diligence before purchase of the same.
A case of such nature is Peter Darlington Partners Ltd vs. Gosho Co. Ltd, wherein there was a contract for the sale of canary seeds subject to customs of the trade; the court held for rebate on the price of the seeds due to impurities present in them. Here, the defective nature of the product of sale invited remedy for its buyer.
In conclusion, the principle of caveat emptor has evolved over time into that of caveat venditor, which is widely relevant in disputes on goods, services and property disputes.