Buying goods and services in the EU
Within the European Union there is free movement of goods and services. In order to safeguard this principle, agreements have also been made on consumer protection. These agreements are set out in the European Directive on the Sale of consumer goods and associated guarantees, which is applicable in every Member State. Below we set out your minimum rights and guarantees when buying goods and services in an EU Member State. These rights and guarantees can therefore never be curtailed by any guarantee clause, warranty provision or general terms and conditions. In addition to these basic rights, certain countries may also have more far-reaching national laws and rules designed to protect consumers.
When does the European Directive on the Sale of consumer goods and associated guarantees apply?
The Directive applies to anything bought by any private consumer in a shop or from another professional seller in an EU Member State. With the exception of:
- Real estate.
- Goods which are sold under execution or otherwise by authority of law.
- Water, gas and electricity in unpackaged form.
In some EU Member States other rules may apply in respect of second-hand goods or articles bought at auctions.
What requirements must your purchase comply with?
The seller must sell you goods which "are in conformity with the contract of sale". This is the case:
- If your purchase complies with the description given by the seller and complies with the qualities which the seller has claimed for the product or service.
- If your purchase is fit for any particular purpose for which you require it and which was made known to the seller.
- If your purchase is fit for the purposes for which goods or services of the same type are normally used.
- If the quality and performance of your purchase correspond to what is normal for goods or services of the same type and which you may reasonably expect of it given the description or public statements made about it or them by the seller, the manufacturer or his representative.
The seller is directly liable to you, the consumer, for any lack of conformity with the above requirements. He may not, therefore, hind behind the manufacturer or other supplier.
When are you entitled to free repair or replacement?
The seller is liable for the proper performance of your purchase for a period of at least 2 years. If the purchased item becomes defective within 6 months or if, within this period, the performance of the purchased item is not what you might reasonably expect of it, it is assumed that the lack of conformity already existed at the time of purchase. This does not apply, if the seller can prove that the defect is your own fault. If the defect becomes apparent between 6 and 24 months after purchase, it is your responsibility to show that the defect or fault already existed at the time you purchased the item. You are entitled to repair or replacement of your purchase free of charge, if a defect becomes apparent through no fault of your own within a period of 2 years. Repair or replacement must take place within a reasonable period and without any serious inconvenience to you.
The period of 2 years is a minimum requirement which every EU Member State must comply with. However, under Dutch legislation it is assumed that you are entitled to a longer period of compliance with the requirements of proper performance in the case of products with a longer expected useful life (washing machines, cars and other durable goods). The Netherlands therefore offers consumers (including those from abroad) more far-reaching protection than is required by the European Directive. However, this does not mean that you are entitled to repair free of charge in all cases after a period of 2 years. You must take into account the age of the purchased item in relation to its expected useful life and normal depreciation for age and wear and tear.
When are you entitled to a refund?
The seller is only entitled to refuse to repair or replace a faulty item, if this would entail unreasonably high costs for the seller. In that case or if repair or replacement is not possible or undesirable for any other reason, you are entitled to:
- A suitable price reduction (i.e. a discount in arrears).
- Have the contract of sale rescinded (return of the purchase sum against the return of your purchase). The seller does not have to agree to this, if the defect or fault is minor
You may also choose between a price reduction and rescission of the contract of sale in the event:
Which (additional) rights does a warranty give you?
Any warranty offered with your purchase is legally binding on the provider. This also applies to any (extended) warranty which is purchased at additional cost. The warranty can never replace or limit the statutory warranty. The advantage of a (manufacturer’s) warranty is that the seller must prove that a defect has been caused by your fault, if it becomes apparent more than 6 months after purchase. The onus of proof is therefore the reverse of what is stipulated in relation to the statutory warranty. The warranty certificate must contain the following information:
- Your entitlement to the statutory warranty and the fact that this is not limited by the manufacturer’s warranty.
- What the warranty covers, in clear and understandable language.
- The details you require, if you have to make a claim on the warranty, such as the name and address of the person or organisation to which you must send your claim, the length of the warranty and the scope of applicability.
At your request, the seller must provide you with the wording of the warranty on paper or in digital format.
What must you be aware of if you have a (manufacturer’s) warranty?
Often, a seller will try to refer you to the manufacturer or the wholesaler. You do not have to accept this, even if you have a (manufacturer’s) warranty. The seller is the party with whom you have a contract. He is therefore liable for compliance with the contract. If you nonetheless approach the manufacturer directly for the purpose of a repair without or outside the term of the manufacturer’s warranty, the manufacturer has the right to charge you any possible costs associated with the repair (e.g. labour costs).
How useful is an extended warranty for an additional fee?
You can often pay to extend the warranty on durable consumer goods with a longer expected useful life. Before you do so, however, stop and consider whether this is necessary. In the Netherlands, the seller is still liable for a properly working product even after 2 years. If a fault becomes apparent, you will, however, have to prove that the fault lies with the product and has not been caused by yourself. An extended warranty can nonetheless be handy if the product becomes defective beyond repair after several years and you are then entitled to a new product at no additional cost.
Do you have the right to exchange goods or cancel a purchase?
No, the European Directive makes no provision for a right of cancellation. Once you have made a purchase, the seller is not under any obligation to take back the product or exchange it for something else. If he is willing to do so, you must consider it as an extra service.
Who can you turn to if you have a complaint?
If you have bought something in another EU Member State and you have a complaint about the goods or service you have purchased, you must first try to reach agreement with the seller abroad. If this proves impossible and you think that you are within your rights according to the European Directive, you can file a complaint with the ECC. The ECC will contact the ECC in the EU Member State where the selling company is located. If there is an alternative dispute resolution body in that country, our sister ECC will forward your complaint to them. Otherwise the ECC will contact the company directly.
- If you have a justifiable complaint about a purchase, don’t be fobbed off with a credit note.
- Always keep your receipt. This is your proof of your contract of sale.
- Report any defect or fault in a purchase as soon as possible. Remember the 6 month time limit!
- Don’t allow yourself to be referred to the manufacturer. The seller is liable for compliance with the contract of sale!