Your guarantees in case of a product defect

Thanks to Europe (European directive 1999/44/EC), for any purchase in store or on the Internet from a professional seller, you benefit from a legal guarantee of conformity of at least 2 years, which allows you to ask the seller to repair or exchange the good, or if this proves impossible, the reimbursement of the sums paid. Consult our FAQ to find out all about your guarantees in Europe.

Questions-answers

Yes and no. Europe has set a principle: you benefit from a minimum 2-year guarantee for any purchase in store or on the Internet from a professional seller based in the EU. However, each country was then free to set conditions of application adapted to its pre-existing rules or ideology. Thus, the duration of the guarantee and the terms for invoking it can differ from one country to another.

Good to know:

  • By buying in a physical store France: you benefit from the French rules regarding guarantee.
  • By buying online from France from a seller based in another European Member state redirecting its activities to France, for example via a website in .fr, written in French, offering the possibility to pay with French means of payment... you benefit in principle from French law.
  • By buying online from France a European seller who does not target French customers (website not written in French, not in .fr, France not included in the delivery destination countries...), you may be subject to the law of the seller's country.

To find out which rules are applicable to your purchase: contact the European Consumer Centre of your country of residence.

  • You cannot use the product as usual,
  • Or its functionalities do not correspond to the description given by the seller,
  • Or the product does not have the qualities announced in the advertisements,
  • Or the product does not have the characteristics you agreed with the seller or does not fit with the specific purpose that you are looking for and which you have communicated to the seller

This guarantee therefore does not cover apparent defects, deterioration of the product due to abnormal use of the product or wear and tear of the product, except if it is explicitly stated in the characteristics of the product that it is indestructible, for example.

Good to know: digital contents and services also benefit from a guarantee in case of defect. In addition to the above criteria, these products or their contract updates are considered non-compliant if they are incompatible, if they cannot be adapted to other devices or systems. Furthermore directive 2019/771 on certain aspects concerning contracts for the sale of goods and directive 2019/770 on certain aspects concerning contracts for the supply of digital content and digital services will replace the current rules. Transposition into the national laws should intervene by 1 July 2021 for an application by 1 January 2022.

The legal guarantee of conformity is at least 2 years from delivery in most European countries (in France for example) but it can be longer: 3 years in Sweden for example.

Several countries also take into account the average lifespan of the product to determine the duration of the guarantee (up to 5 years in Iceland and Norway). The Netherlands for example use the expected average life of the product, its price, the type of shop it was purchased from or information from producers to determine the duration of the guarantee.

Contact your seller. He is responsible for the application of the legal guarantee of conformity. He/she should not redirect you to the manufacturer.

Is your seller in liquidation? In some countries, there is a possibility to go up the marketing chain and to invoke the guarantee with another party (reseller, manufacturer, etc.). This is for example the case in Iceland, Finland, Norway, and Sweden.

In France, such action is only possible within the framework of the legal guarantee for hidden effects.

In France, no deadline has been set but it is better to act quickly.

In 11 European countries, the consumer must inform the seller within 2 months of discovering the defect (Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Estonia, Italy, Malta, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, and Spain). In the other countries, the buyer must act within a reasonable period of time.

Europe wanted to protect consumers because it is often difficult to provide proof of a defect, by resorting to an expert assessment, which can be costly. Therefore, for at least 6 months, any defect is presumed to have existed at the time of delivery and you do not need  to prove the defect to invoke the guarantee, unless this presumption is incompatible with the nature of the goods or the nature of the lack of conformity.

In France and in Portugal for example, this reversal of the burden of proof lasts for the entire duration of the guarantee. Thus, you do not have to prove to your seller a defect that would appear within two years of delivery of the product: it is presumed to have existed upon delivery and it is up to your seller to demonstrate that the product was in conformity. In Slovakia and Poland, for example, this period is one year.

EU legislation foresees a so called hierarchy of remedies.

In case of lack of conformity, you are entitled (in order):

  1. To request repair or exchange of the product from the seller within a reasonable period of time
  2. If repair or exchange of the product is impossible, not carried out within a reasonable period of time (1 month for example in France and Bulgaria, or 15 days in Luxemburg, Hungary, Romania for example) or too complicated or too costly for the seller, you have the right to return the product and be refunded the sums paid or keep the good and obtain a partial refund.

In Greece, Poland, Portugal and Slovenia for example, you do not have to respect this hierarchy of solutions and you can freely choose between the different options.

In France, currently, in case of lack of conformity, you can choose between repair or replacement of the good but the seller can refuse your choice if this involves clearly disproportionate costs. From 2021, with the law of February 10, 2020 on the fight against waste and for a circular economy, if you choose the repair of the product rather than the exchange but the seller does not follow your choice, you can request the replacement of the good with renewal of the legal guarantee of conformity for 2 years.

It is up to the seller to bear his costs because the application of the legal guarantee of conformity must be free of charge for the consumer. EU legislation clearly indicates that free of charge refers to the necessary costs incurred to bring the goods into conformity, particularly the cost of postage, labour and materials.

It should be pointed out that French legislation foresees that traders have the obligation to offer a non-surcharged phone number to consumers when the call concerns the proper execution of a contract, a complaint, the exercise of the right of withdrawal in the case of a distance sale, the implementation of a guarantee.

  • Contact your seller to find out the address and the return terms of the product. In some cases, the address of return is not the same as the one from which the package came.
  • Ask him to send you a return label

Attention: if the seller asks you to take care of the return costs and you accept, you become responsible for the transport and will eventually have to assume the risks.

In all cases the items must be carefully packed. It is possible to use the original packaging if it is strong and still in good condition, but this is not mandatory. Do not hesitate to take photos of the good and the package before its closing and sending it.

Find out more about delivery in Europe.

Some sellers sometimes mention the impossibility of repair due to the manufacturer’s refusal to supply spare parts.

In France there is no obligation to sell reparable items and no obligation to provide spare parts. The law of 10 February 2020 on the fight against waste and for a circular economy imposes an obligation to indicate the reparability of certain electrical appliances (smartphones, portable computers, TVs, washing machines…). This reparability indicator becomes mandatory in 2021 abd will be replaced in 2024 by a durability indicator.

For furniture though the availability for spare parts needs to be mentioned in the shop.

Also from 2021, the manufacturer or importer will have to inform the seller of the “availability or unavailability of necessary spare parts and, the period during which or the date until which these parts are available on the market…”.

In 10 countries (Belgium, Bulgaria, Ireland, Italia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway and Romania), the legal guarantee is suspended during the repair or exchange of the product.

In other countries such as Austria, Croatia, Greece and Iceland, the repaired or exchanged product is guaranteed againfor 2 years (from delivery).

In France, a suspension of the guarantee is currently only provided for under the commercial guarantee in the event of immobilisation for more than 7 days. However, from 2021, with the law of February 10, 2020 on the fight against waste and for a circular economy, if you choose a repair rather than a product replacement, you will benefit from a guarantee extension of 6 months.

In France, from 2021, with the law of February 10, 2020 on the fight against waste and for a circular economy, you will have to know for 5 years from the marketing of the latest model whether spare parts for household appliances, small IT and telecommunications equipment, screens and monitors or medical equipment are available. Professionals in charge of the maintenance and repair of these devices must systematically offer to use second-hand spare parts rather than new parts.

In Portugal, the consumer has the right to after-sales assistance and in particular to spare parts during the average life of his appliance.

In Greece (this is an obligation of the seller) and Romania (obligation of the manufacturer), spare parts must be made available throughout the expected lifetime of the product.

Changes are expected from March 2021 with the EU directive on eco-design and energy labelling obligations.

Yes, whether you buy a new or second-hand good, you benefit from a legal guarantee of conformity.

However, the duration can be different (only 1 year in Germany for example).

In 14 European countries, you have a 2-year guarantee even for second-hand goods (Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Leetonia, Lithuania, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and UnitedKingdom). However, you may have to prove the defect. In France, for example, you have a 2-year guarantee for second-hand goods but the above mentioned reversal of burden of proof only operates during the first 6 months after delivery. From 2021, with the law of February 10, 2020 on the fight against waste and for a circular economy, this duration will be extended to 12 months.

For any online purchase from a European professional seller, you have at least 14 days to change your mind and 14 days to return your order without having to justify yourself. More information in our article on your cooling off right.

If the package arrives damaged, refuse it and indicate your reasons for refusal directly on the deliverynote. Then contact your seller and the transport company in writing, preferably by LRAR + e-mail with acknowledgement of receipt, as soon as possible. Ask for the removal of the damaged product and an exchange with a compliant goods. More detailed information in our article on delivery in Europe.

Any seller selling his products in France must offer an instruction manual in French. More detailed information in our article on delivery in Europe.

In France, in addition of the conformity guarantee, you benefit from a guarantee of hidden defects (articles 1641 to 1649 of the French Civil Code). Hidden defects occur when the item is "unfit for the use for which it is intended, or which so diminishes its use that the buyer would not have acquired it, or would only have paid a lower price for it, if he had known about them". A defect is said to be hidden when you do not detect it during a simple examination.

You have 2 years from the discovery of the defect to act in guarantee for hidden defects.

But contrary to the legal guarantee of conformity, you must in all cases provide proof of the hidden defect, for example by an expert assessment.

This guarantee is particularly interesting if your seller has been placed in compulsory liquidation for example and can no longer assume the legal guarantee of conformity because its allows you to go up the links in the marketing chain aigainst the manufacturer for example, which is not possible under the legal guarantee of conformity.

This type of guarantee is unknown to most European sellers because it only exists in France, Belgium, Spain, Luxembourg, Italy and Romania.

The manufacturer's guarantee is a commercial warranty. Any merchant can offer it to you, free of charge or against payment (after-sales service). However, it does not cancel the legal guarantees, which are the responsibility of your seller.

Insist on the application of the legal guarantee of conformity with your seller! 2 years legal guarantee is a right, not an option!

Moreover, commercial guarantee contracts must mention the existence of the guarantee of conformity AND, in France, the guarantee of hidden defects.

Who can help me in case of a dispute with a European seller or transport company?

If you are unable to come to a solution with a seller based in another European Union Member state, in the United Kingdom, Iceland or Norway, do not hesitate to contact the European Consumer Centre of your country of residence.