Can You Return a Product That You Wrongly Bought?

By Joseph Cheah


Microsoft have had the following gaming consoles in the market:

  1. Xbox One X (discontinued around 16th July 2020)
  2. Xbox One S All-Digital (discontinued around 16th July 2020)
  3. Xbox One S (available for purchase)
  4. Xbox Series X (available on 10th November 2020)
  5. Xbox Series S (available on 10th November 2020)

The above products are different in terms of price tags, shapes, and features.

But as you can predict, many people are angry at Microsoft for having such complex and misleading names, especially that children being one of the target consumers.

Microsoft have just recently launched the pre-orders for the Xbox Series X. However, Amazon reports that there was a massive 747% increase for the purchase of Xbox One X instead – it is suspect that many people may have mistakenly purchased the wrong console.

What does the law say in respect of the situation where people have mistakenly purchased the wrong gaming console? The law is as follows:

Mistake made by both parties

Section 21 of the Contracts Act 1950 states:

“Where both the parties to an agreement are under a mistake as to a matter of fact essential to the agreement, the agreement is void.”

In this regard, 2 criteria must be fulfilled:

  1. Both parties are mistaken about the subject of the agreement; and
  2. The subject is a fundamental component to the agreement.

Applying the Microsoft example, a seller has an Xbox One X to sell, but mistakenly advertises that he is selling an Xbox One S. You want an Xbox One S and bought the it from the seller. But you realised that it’s not the console that the seller advertises.

Here, since both parties are mistaken about the subject and that subject is essential to the agreement, the agreement is void.

Another example is that if a seller wants to sell a vase to the buyer, but unbeknown to the both, the vase dropped to the floor and shattered. In this case, the agreement is also void.

Mistake by one party

What’s the legal position for those people that have mistakenly bought an Xbox One X, instead of the new Xbox Series X?

Section 23 of the Contracts Act 1950 states:

“A contract is not voidable merely because it was caused by one of the parties to it being under a mistake as to a matter of fact.”

Unfortunately, if the seller was clear in their advertisement and description of the product, and that the buyer was the one that is mistaken, the contract will still be valid and binding. In such a case, there was no misrepresentation or fraud on the part of the seller.

If the Agreement is void

If the agreement is deemed void, the parties must return to each other what they may have received respectively.

For example, if the seller received money from the buyer for the purchase of the vase, but the vase was destroyed, the seller is obligated to return the money to the buyer. The intention is to put the parties back to their original position as if the sale had never happened.


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