One of the biggest legal issues arising out of the model horse hobby is the issue of contracting with minors. A lot of the members of the hobby who one deals with on a daily basis are technically classed as a minor. Problems arise from this as under UK law a contract with a minor is automatically void. Some exceptions do apply and this article discusses how you stand when you contract with a minor in the hobby.
Who is a minor?
In England and Wales a minor is anyone under the age of 18 years, in Scotland the age of majority is 16. This means that on a basic level contracts with people under 18 in England and Wales and 16 in Scotland and void. Be aware that if a minor reaches the age of majority and then affirms the contract then it is valid. Also be aware that parents cannot enter a contract on behalf of a minor. If you contract with the parent even if the item is to go to their child and it is the child's money your contract is with the parent.
The exception to the rule that contracts with minors are automatically void are contracts made for necessaries. There is no legal definition of a necessary but generally they are items or services that are of a benefit to the minor. This varies with the minors position in life. What this essentially means is that a £200 designer bag may be a necessary to a rich child of a famous celebrity but would not be a necessary to your average child.
So are model horses classed as necessaries? Well probably not know. But there may be exceptions to this. A minor who makes money from painting and selling models for example may be bound to a contract for painting supplies. This is because the supplies are of a benefit to the child as they are helping them make their way in life and provide for themselves and their family (see the case of Chaplin).
Essentially the only way to protect yourself from these problems is to actually not deal with minors. But that is not always a possibility. The best way is to actually deal with their parents directly. In dealing with the parents you form a legal contract with the parent and therefore they cannot back out of the agreement. By insisting that payment is made through PayPal for example this ensures that you deal with the parent.
Another security is that of reputation within the hobby. Any sensible minor will not want to gain red lights or a bad reputation because of their conduct as this will prevent them from dealing in future. This means that although a minor has a legal right to simply end the contract when it is not for their benefit they are unlikely to do so because of the repercussions. Making it clear in your trade policies that you red light all those with whom you encounter problems should provide you with an extra layer of security.
As a minor if you wish to buy and sell models but have problems because of adults not wanting to deal with you (as many do) your best approach is to ensure that your parents deal with the person on your behalf. By using their PayPal account or credit card you can ensure that this is the case. You can also tell sellers that you are willing to let them speak to your parents directly so that they can be sure that the contract will be valid.
In conclusion dealing with minors is a tricky area of the hobby. The English law can be flexible around the interpretation of necessaries but it is unlikely that the sale of a model horse will be counted as such. The law aims to protect the minor even if that leaves the adult out of pocket and when dealing you should be aware of that. Parents cannot deal on behalf of the minor but if they pay with their PayPal account or credit card then it is they that are making not the contract not the minor so the contract will be enforced.
This article is for discussion purposes only and should not be taken as actual legal advice.