Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Merchantable Quality Definition:

A product which is undamaged and usable and of sufficient quality to merit purchase at the requested price by a reasonable buyer.

Related Terms: Consumer Goods, Misrepresentation

A requirement under sale of goods legislation; an implied condition often imposed upon the retailer (merchant).

For example, §18(b) of the British Columbia Sale of Goods Act (2011):

"Subject to this and any other Act, there is no implied warranty or condition as to the quality or fitness for any particular purpose of goods supplied under a contract of sale or lease, except as follows: ...  (b) if goods are bought by description from a seller or lessor who deals in goods of that description, whether the seller or lessor is the manufacturer or not, there is an implied condition that the goods are of merchantable quality; but if the buyer or lessee has examined the goods there is no implied condition as regards defects that the examination ought to have revealed."

In Kendall & Sons, Jusdtice Reid merchantability often relates to the description made of the product:

"If the description in the contract was so limited that the goods sold under it would normally be used for only one purpose, then the goods would be unmerchantable under that description if they were of no use for that purpose.  If, however, the description was so general that goods sold under it were normally used for several purposes, then goods would be merchantable under that description if they were fit for anyone of these purposes.  If the buyer wanted the goods for one of those several purposes, for which the goods delivered did not happen to be suitable, though they were suitable for other purposes for which goods bought under that description were normally bought, then he could not complain."

In Bartlett v Sidney Marcus, Lord Denning held that '“merchantable means of some use though not entirely efficient use for the purpose but that at some point, caveat emptor applies and there is no requirement of perfection. Before him was the issue of the merchantibilioty of a second hand-car which, he held, was reasonably fit for the purpose if in a roadworthy condition, fit to be driven along the road in safety, even though it was not as perfect as a new car:

"A buyer should realize that, when he buys a secondhand car, defects may appear sooner or later; and, in the absence of an express warranty, he has no redress."

 In the 6th edition of his book The Sale of Goods, author Atiyah wrote, at page 105:

"[I]t is essential to remember that the question of merchantability cannot be divorced from the contract description.

"The question is not whether in the abstract the goods can be described as merchantable, but whether they are merchantable under the contract description and the circumstances of the case."


  • Atiyah, P. S., The Sale of Goods, 6th Ed. (1980)
  • Bartlett v. Sidney Marcus Ltd., [1965] 2 All E.R. 753 (C.A.)).
  • B.S. Brown & Son v. Craiks Ltd., [1970] 1 All E.R. 823
  • IBM v. Shcherban, [1925] 1 D.L.R. 864 (Sask. C.A.)
  • Kendall and Sons v. William Llioco and Sons et al, (1968) 2 All E.R. 444
  • Sale of Goods Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 410

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