LEGAL PERSPECTIVE: Sale by Description by Dr AbdelGadir Warsama, Legal Counsel


A contract for the sale of goods, as per the law, is a contract by which the seller transfers or agrees to transfer the property in goods to the buyer for a money consideration called the price. Generally speaking, it is not necessary to observe complex formalities to create sale of goods contract. It may be in writing or by word of mouth or even impliedly by conduct.

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Parties are free to agree between themselves regarding details of their contract. However, there are implied terms, of conditions and warranties in every contract of sale. A major implied condition on the part of the seller, that he has a right to sell the goods and to pass the property. If he can’t pass good title of ownership to the buyer, he will be liable for breach of a condition. Moreover, there are implied warranties that goods are free from any charges or encumbrances not known by buyer and the buyer will enjoy quiet possession of the goods.

In case, there is a contract for the sale of goods by description, there is an implied condition that the goods will correspond with the description. If the buyer does not see the goods before he buys them, for example, from a mail order catalogue or other phone ads. In such instances, there has been clearly what is known as “sale by description”. Even where the buyer has seen the goods and perhaps selected them himself, it may still be a sale by description, provided that he has relied to some extent on a description. 

The description of goods may cover many matters such as size, quality, weight, ingredients, origin or even how they are backed. The slightest departure from the specifications will entitle the buyer to reject the goods for breach of a condition of the contract. However, a seller may ensure that the transaction is not a sale by description by including such phrases as “bought as seen” or “sold as seen” in the contract.

Now during this COVID- 19, people are not allowed to go as they used and many sales as undertaken under are “sale by description”. A good example is ordering food through “Talabat”.  You may reject delivery due to breach of description. However, to go for this there must be strong reasons. The law does not concern itself with trifling matters and strong reasons are required.

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