Legal guarantee of conformity

French sellers of consumer goods are obliged to guarantee the conformity of the goods with a contract, for a period of 2 years after the delivery of the goods.

Update : June 2017

Duration of the guarantee in France

This guarantee lasts for 2 years starting on day of delivery of the item. It is up to the seller to prove that the goods delivered are in conformity with the order or are suitable for normal use of the product:

  • during the first 6 months, for second-hand goods;
  • during the entire duration of the legal guarantee (2 years) for new goods.

The assessment of what is to be considered a lack of conformity will differ between second-hand goods and brand new products.

What is a lack of conformity? 

Article 2 of the Consumer Sales and Guarantees Directive lists a number of situations in which consumer goods are presumed to be in conformity with the contract. From this Article it can be deduced that the legal guarantee will apply, in the following situations: The goods

  • do not correspond to the description given by the seller and do not have the qualities of the sample or model which the seller presented to the consumer;
  • are not fit for the specific purpose required by the consumer, of which he/she informed the seller at the moment of conclusion of the contract, and which the seller accepted;
  • are not fit for the usual purpose of goods of the same type;
  • do not have the qualities and attributes of other goods of the same type which the consumer can reasonably expect regarding their nature and any public declarations made about the characteristics of the goods by the seller, the producer or his/her representative, especially in publicity or labelling.

Solutions and remedies to the lack of conformity

The seller is liable to the consumer for any lack of conformity which already exists when the good is delivered or appears within 2 years. In case of non conformity the consumer is entitled to have the goods brought into conformity free of charge. The consumer will be entitled to choose between: 

  • free repair and free replacement of the goods within a reasonable period of time (the seller can only refuse if this causes disproportionate costs on him in comparison with the alternative remedy, taking into account the value of the goods or the significance of the lack of conformity ;
  • If repair or replacement is impossible, the consumer can return the good and ask for a refund or keep the item and ask for a price reduction. The same option exists if the seller cannot satisfy the consumer’s choice within a one-month period or if the solution causes a significant inconvenience to the consumer taking the nature of the good and the intended usage into consideration.

However, no cancellation of the contract can be pronounced if the defect is minor.

"Free of charge" means for the seller ...

According to article 3.4 of Directive 1999/44/EC “The terms free of charge in paragraphs 2 and 3 refer to the necessary costs incurred to bring the goods into conformity, particularly the cost of postage, labour and materials.” That is, as far as the repair or replacement of the goods are provided for under the legal guarantee, the seller cannot ask for a fee or impose any costs on the consumer. This includes : 

  • transport/shipping costs,
  • as well as any additional costs (spare parts, labour, etc.), 
  • expert opinions, even if this is not clearly foreseen by the Directive,
  • and administrative fees,
  • postage fees
  • bank fees,
  • and telephone communication fees may be an issue. Hotlines enabling consumers to ask for application of the legal guarantee must be accessible at a usual rate.

In France the seller is responsible for execution of the contract which also includes operations performed by all intermediaries. Transport is thus also under the seller’s responsibility.

However, a specific rule exists with regard to damage during transport; the seller has to inform the transport company of any damage within 3 days. As the consumer is in a position to identify such damage upon delivery he/she has the same obligation.

It is therefore very common to see in the general terms and conditions of distance selling contracts that the consumer has to check the item upon delivery and inform the transport company right away and at the latest within 3 days of any transport damage. It is also recommended to inform the seller in writing.

If the consumer is not able to check the item upon receipt, the deadline is extended to 10 days. If the consumer does not fulfil this obligation, the seller will lose his/her action against the transport company. A seller will therefore not be inclined to satisfy any complaint from a consumer regarding transport damage after this deadline, even though the LEGAL GUARANTEE of conformity remains applicable.

French consumer code requires the producer to inform the seller of the period in which the spare parts required for the use of the goods are available on the market. The seller has to pass this information on to the consumer before the conclusion of a contract.

The recent French consumer law (loi « consommation » du 17 mars 2014), goes further by imposing – during the period of availability of spare parts – an obligation on the producer or importer to provide the seller or repairer with the necessary parts within a deadline of 2 months.

The prescription period in the event of non-conformity of goods is based on the legal guarantee period and is therefore 2 years from delivery of the goods to the consumer.

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