What Is Acceptance of Goods?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Nancy Fann-Im
  • Last Modified Date: 27 September 2019
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Acceptance of goods is an indicator that a recipient intends to take ownership or responsibility for goods, thus creating an obligation to care for the goods or pay for them, depending on the situation. A shipping agent, for example, enters a legal obligation to transport goods as directed under a contract by accepting them. Buyers accept goods for purchase and must pay for them upon acceptance. In both cases, the owner can potentially have grounds for a suit if the party accepting the goods fails to meet legal obligations.

This term most commonly comes up in sales, where a buyer takes acceptance of goods from a seller and must pay for them or provide other compensation, depending on the situation. There are several ways in which buyers accept goods. One is through affirmative acceptance, where a buyer signs for goods and indicates an intent to pay for them. Another occurs when a buyer has control of goods for a reasonable amount of time and makes no move to reject them, or acts as their owner.


For instance, if someone receives a shipment of books in the mail and does not contact the owner to send them back or refuse the delivery within a month, this could constitute acceptance of goods. If the recipient started writing in the books, reselling them, or moving them to a different location, this is also acceptance, because these activities are assertions of ownership rights. The seller would be entitled to demand payment, because the buyer had accepted the goods tacitly through behaviors consistent with ownership.

If a buyer identifies a problem with a shipment or does not want part of it, it is possible to send an affirmative rejection. In this case, the buyer does not accept the goods, and wishes the seller to take responsibility for them. Sellers can direct buyers to ship the goods back or destroy them, depending on the situation, and may provide a refund or credit, depending on the transaction. Sellers cannot force acceptance of goods on a buyer, an issue that has arisen with unsolicited goods cases, where people receive products they didn't order and may be told they have an obligation to pay for them.

In a shipping context, acceptance of goods indicates that the shipper is ready to take responsibility for them and must deliver them safely and appropriately. If the shipper fails to perform, the seller can bring the shipper to court for compensation. Shippers may have policies in place to handle many disputes before they escalate to court; for example, if a shipment is lost, they may pay the replacement costs of the products.


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