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hire-purchasea form of purchase under which the purchase price can be paid over an agreed period of time by instalments. During the period the goods purchased remain the property of the seller (or the hire-purchase company to whom the seller has assigned his rights of ownership); possession is granted to the purchaser (the hirer) by means of a bailment by the seller; property passes when the last instalment has been paid and the hirer exercises the option inherent in the agreement. A hire-purchase agreement is distinguished from a conditional sale agreement in that in the latter property passes automatically when the last instalment has been paid (i.e. there is no exercise of any option to purchase).
Collins Dictionary of Law © W.J. Stewart, 2006