You have purchased goods and services on the website of a seller based in another European country? If you are not happy with your order, you can change your mind within at least14 days: this is called the right of withdrawal or cooling off.
The right of withdrawal is a period during which you can cancel an online purchase, even if you have already paid. Before concluding a contract, the seller must inform you of the existence of the right to withdraw and its limits, or of the absence of a right to withdrawal.
Thanks to the European directive 2011/83, you have at least a 14-day right of withdrawal following online or distance purchases. It concerns purchases realised:
- on the Internet,
- by mail order,
- during a doorstep selling,
- during a teleshopping,
- outside the establishment of the professional (during a door-to-door selling, at the workplace, in a community centre, during organised excursions, etc.).
- in a shopping following an invitation from the retailer to visit you on the spot.
Purchase in a shop, at a fair or exhibition: no withdrawal!
- Any purchase made in a shop in Europe is in principle firm and final (except in Lithuania, which grants a right of withdrawal of 14 days even for purchases in shops). Therefore, in principle, you cannot cancel your purchase unless you pay a cancellation fee. In practice, many retailers offer as a commercial gesture the possibility of exchanging and/or refunding the item within a certain period of time. Before buying, check with the shop owner.
- If you buy a product at a fair or exhibition in France,you will not be able to give it back free of charge either. A fair or exhibition is considered to be a "commercial establishment" of the seller or service provider within the meaning of European Union law, so it is as if you were buying in a shop
Good to know: According to the Court of Justice of the European Union (judgement of 7 August 2018), a stand run by a professional a few days a year at a trade fair is a "business establishment" if, in view of the circumstances, the appearance of the stand and the information relayed at the fair, you could reasonably expect that the trader would carry on his activities and sell his products or services to you.
No. In principle, you only have a right of withdrawal for purchases made at a distance and outside the shop, see above.
But even at a distance, you do not always have a right of withdrawal. This is the case for:
- Renting lodging for non-residential purposes, transporting goods, renting cars, catering or services related to leisure activities if the contract includes a specific date or period of execution (ex. trips, plane tickets, concerts...);
- Emergency maintenance or repair work you have expressly ordered and within the limit of spare parts and works necessary to face the emergency;
The professional can also expressly ask you to give up your right of withdrawal so that services can begin before the expiry of the 14-day period, with your consent. This for example the case for:
- Online purchase of software for download;
- A subscription to a dating site with immediate access to the service.
For specific goods, you do not have a right to withdrawal either:
- custom-order or personalised items (ex. engraved jewelry, photo album);
- goods that spoil or perish quickly;
- goods which have been unsealed after delivery by you and which cannot be returned for reasons of hygiene or health protection;
- sealed audio or visual recordings or software that has been unsealed after delivery
Since the European directive 2002/65/CE of 23 September 2002 concerning the distance marketing of financial services, you have, depending on the type of financial service suscribed to, a right of reflection or withdrawal from 10 to 30 days.
Are thus covered by the concept of "financial services":
- online banking,
- consumer credit,
- some insurance,
- investments ...
Attention: You do not have a right of withdrawal for financial services whose "price depends on fluctuations in the financial market that are likely to occur during the period of withdrawal" or whose "terms have been fully respected by both parties" (e.g. you cannot withdraw from travel insurance if you have already travelled).
You benefit from a right of withdrawal on products on sale, second-hand or out of stock, provided that it is a remote or off-store purchase. For sales in shops, ask the shop owner. More information on sales.
Throughout the EU, you normally have a minimum of 14 days to change your mind about your purchase. You seller can offer a longer period but not a shorter one (otherwise it is an unfair term)
This period is extended by 1 year from the expiry of the initial 14-day period, if you have not been informed of the right of withdrawal by your seller. If in the meantime, if the seller informs you of your right, the period expires 14 days after the day on which you finally received the information.
This period begins the following day:
- of the delivery of the goods;
- the conclusion of the contractfor the provision of services and contracts for the supply of water, gas, electricity or digital content.
Where multiple goods are ordered in one order but are delivered separately, the withdrawal period expires after 14 days from the day on yiu acquired physical possession of the last good. If this period expires on a Saturday, Sunday or holiday, you have until the next business day.
Good to know
Legally in France, you can only exercise your right of withdrawal once you have received the goods purchased online. The cooling off right is meant to allow you to check whether the goods meet your expectations. Although some sellers may accept that you withdraw from your order before delivery in order to avoid unnecessary delivery costs and transport risks, they are not obliged to do so.
The seller should inform you about the existence, conditions, period and modalities for exercising your right of withdrawal and provide you with a model withdrawal form.
You do not have to justify yourself to the seller but you must inform the seller of your decision to withdraw.
- Contact your seller in writing and keep a copy. Use the withdrawal form provided or write a clear message about your wish to withdraw. Prefer registered letters or e-mails with acknowledgement of receipt because in the event of a dispute you must be able to prove that you have withdrawn within the time limit.
Good to know: simply returning the good without a declaration or refusing delivery is not sufficient to express your wish to withdraw. Nevertheless some sellers accept this. So check the general terms and conditions.
- Return your order within 14 days maximum, if the professional does not offer to pick it up. You must make sure you send the item to the right address. In some cases, the return address is not the same as the one from which the package came. If you are not sure, check the general conditions of sale or ask the seller for the procedure (return address, return number, etc.). Check if he/she provides you with a return label. In all cases the items must be carefully packed. It is possible to use the original packaging if it is solid and still in good condition, but this is not mandatory. Do not hesitate to take pictures of the good and the package before closing and sending it.
If you received your order in several packages and the seller gives you a returns slip for each one, respect this order so that the returns centre can register the returns correctly. Don't put all the products in one parcel!
The European Directive on consumer rights establishes that the consumer may have to pay the return shipping costs in case of withdrawal. If you were not informed of your obligation to cover the return shipping costs in advance, the seller is responsible for paying the fees.
For off-premises contracts, where the goods are delivered to the consumer's home, the professional shall collect the goods at his own expense if they cannot be sent back by post in the normal way.
The seller is obliged to reimburse you for the full amount you have paid, including standard delivery charges (unless you have chosen a more expensive method of delivery such as express delivery for example).
If you return only part of your order, you will be refunded the price of goods returned + delivery fees in proportion to the number of items returned.
The seller must reimburse you no more than 14 days after being informed of your decision to withdraw. If the seller is retrieving the item, he/she may delay the reimbursement until the item is picked up, or until he/she receives proof that you have sent the item back.
In case of late reimbursement, if French law applies to your contract, you can request damages according to a specific scale.
The seller should reimburse you through the same payment method you used for the purchase. Unless you agree to a different method which does not result in additional fees. So if you paid by credit card, the seller cannot, in principle, reimburse you by check or voucher/credit on your customer account.
For services which have begun with your agreement before the expiry of the right of withdrawal, if you still wish to change your mind, you must pay the seller an amount corresponding to the service provided until you decide to withdraw. This amount shall be proportionate to the total price of the service. If the total price is excessive, the amount shall be calculated on the basis of the market value of what has been provided.
Good to know: if the trader has not obtained your prior consent to the execution of the contract before the end of the withdrawal period as well as the proof of you giving up right of withdrawal, no money shall be due.
If you purchase goods, you have the right to examine them under conditions comparable to those in a store. So you do not have the right, for example, to wear a dress one evening or to watch the World Cup on a new video projector and send it back the next day.
On the other hand, the seller cannot oppose you a depreciation of the item if you have only tried it to make sure of its size, its good working, etc.
Who can help me in case of a complaint against a European seller?
- If you are unable to come a solution with a seller based in another European Union Member state, United Kingdom, Iceland or Norway, do not hesitate to contact the European Consumer Centre of your residence country.
- If you live in France and you have a dispute with a French seller, contact a French consumers' association.
Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Innovation Council and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises Executive Agency (EISMEA). Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.