Cheated by a seller on a classifieds website in UAE? File a court case

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If the seller is silent regarding information about the goods or service, then he has made a misrepresentation.

By Ashish Mehta

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Published: Sun 22 Dec 2019, 3:12 PM

Last updated: Mon 23 Dec 2019, 7:19 AM

On December 11, I purchased a pre-owned car for an amount of Dh32,000 from a person to whom I got introduced through an online portal. I had thoroughly inspected the car at that time and paid deposit money of Dh1,000 to the seller. Thereafter, I paid the remaining amount to the seller's attorney. However, post purchase when I took the aforesaid car to a service shop, it was made known to me that that its odometer had been tampered with. It had been used as a taxi before and that its body paint had been changed. Subsequently, I tried contacting the seller asking him to take back possession of the car and refund me Dh32,000 that I had paid for it. However, the person refused to do so. When I contacted the police, they advised me to approach the courts. What is the legal procedure to file a case against the person who sold me the car? Do I have a strong case in my favour?

Pursuant to the first part of your query, it is noted that you have not mentioned the place where, in the UAE, the transaction had happened. Therefore, it may be advisable for you to approach a legal counsel working in that jurisdiction, who may aid and advise you in respect of the specific procedures for initiating appropriate legal proceedings against the seller, based on the substantive laws, discussed hereinafter.

Pursuant to the second part of your query, it may be noted that, as a purchaser, you have certain rights against the seller under the provisions of civil and criminal laws, applicable in the UAE.

It is pertinent to note that when a private individual buys goods from another private individual, the provisions of the Federal Law No. (5) of 1985 on the Civil Transactions Law of the UAE (the 'Civil Transactions Law') may be applicable.

In the instant case, you found three pieces of information post the sale of the car viz. - (i) the odometer was tampered with; (ii) the body paint was changed; and (iii) the car was used as a taxi, previously. And it is assumed that you would not have purchased the car, if you were privy to such information prior to purchase of the vehicle. In this regard, it may be noted that insofar as the seller remained silent regarding the information as stated, he has made a misrepresentation, in accordance with the provisions of Article 186 of the Civil Transactions Law, which reads as follows:

"Article 186. Deliberate silence concerning a fact or set of circumstances shall be deemed to be a misrepresentation if it is proved that the person misled thereby would not have made the contract had he been aware of that fact or of circumstances."

And in pursuance of the above, you have a right to cancel the contract for sale of the car, in accordance with the provisions of Article 187 of the Civil Transactions Law, which reads as follows:

"Article 187. If one of the contracting parties makes a misrepresentation to the other and it transpires that the contract was concluded by a gross cheat, the person so misled may cancel the contract."

Further, misrepresentation by one party to a contract, makes an agreement defective, which in turn makes it void, as misrepresentation is described as one of the defects in consent under Part 1 Section 2 sub-section 4 (b) of the Civil Transactions Law. And this means that the contract is not effective between the parties. This is in accordance with the provisions of Article 210 of the Civil Transactions Law, which reads as follows:

"Article 210. (1) A void contract is one which is unlawful in its essence and form, lacking the elements of a contract or defective in its subject matter or purpose or form as laid down by law for the making of a contract, and such contract shall be of no effect and shall not be capable of being rectified by consent. (2) Any person having an interest may rely on the voidness of the contract and a judge may so rule of his own motion. (3) No claim (for a declaration) that a contract is void shall be heard after the expiry of 15 years from the date the contract was made, but any person having an interest may raise the defence of the voidness of the contract at any time."

And where a contract is dissolved for it being void, the parties to the contract are obliged to return each other's considerations, or the things obtained from each other and restore each other to the condition prior to the contract. This is in accordance with the provisions of Article 274 of the Civil Transactions Law, which reads as follows:

"Article 274. If the contract is cancelled automatically or by the act of the parties, the two contracting parties shall be restored to the position they were in before the contract was made, and if that is not possible, compensation shall be ordered."

Also, you have the right to seek compensation to the extent of the infringement over your rights as a contracting party, in accordance with the provisions of Article 90 of the Civil Transactions Law, which reads as follows: "Article 90. Any person who suffers an unlawful infringement of any of the rights appurtenant to him as a person shall have the right to require that such infringement cease, together with compensation for any damage suffered by him."

Based on the aforementioned provisions of law, you may consider approaching the court to file a civil suit against the person requesting it to nullify the sale of the car and to refund the amount paid as consideration for its sale, in addition to payment of compensation for infringement of your rights as a purchaser. And in this regard, you will be required to furnish evidence regarding the silence and suppression of facts by the seller and other aspects of the transaction. It is also stated that you thoroughly inspected the car prior to purchasing it.

Further it may be noted that misrepresentation by way of silence or suppression of facts may also qualify as an offence punishable with detention and/or fine, under the provisions of Article 423 of the Federal Law No (3) of 1987 on the issuance of the penal code (the 'UAE Penal Code') which reads as follows. "Article 423. Without prejudice to any more severe penalty, shall be sentenced to detention and/or to a fine, whoever fraudulently misrepresents to a contracting party the truth about a merchandise, its nature, characteristics, components, its kind or origin, whenever these are considered basic reasons for contracting, or about the quantum of the merchandise, its quantity, measurement, dry measure, weight, capacity or identity, in case the merchandise delivered is different from that contracted. Shall be subject to the same penalty, whoever imports, purchases or promotes this merchandise for trading purposes being aware of the truth about it."

You may therefore choose to initiate criminal proceedings as well, against the seller. And in furtherance of the above, we reiterate that you may take the help of a legal counsel who may help you, in this regard.

It may also be noted that the advice provided hereinabove is of a general nature, based specifically on the facts provided by you, vis-a-vis the position of laws in the UAE. Therefore, for better understanding of your rights and standing in law, it may also be advisable for you to refer terms of the contract of sale and purchase (if any) of the car, and the terms and conditions of the online portal (through which you were introduced to the seller of the car) in respect of sale of vehicles.
Ashish Mehta is the founder and Managing Partner of Ashish Mehta & Associates. He is qualified to practise law in Dubai, the United Kingdom and India. Full details of his firm on: www.amalawyers.com. Readers may e-mail their questions to: news@khaleejtimes.com or send them to Legal View, Khaleej Times, PO Box 11243, Dubai.



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