Buying Goods and Services
In order to help you resolve a situation with a trader in another European country, it is helpful to know which law might be applicable to your problem. The principal pieces of legislation in operation across Europe cover the following areas:
Under the Sale of Goods and Associated Guarantees Directive 99/44/EC
consumer goods must be 'in conformity with the contract of sale 'i.e. you should get what you paid for. Goods are deemed to be 'in conformity with the contract' if, at the moment of delivery to the consumer:
- they comply with the description given by the seller and 'possess the qualities of the product which the seller has held out to the consumer as a sample or model'.For example, the seller cannot tell you that a new kitchen is in 'perfect condition' if half of the cupboard doors are missing. Equally, a seller cannot show you a carpet sample of superior quality to the actual carpet that you purchase based on the sample shown.
- they are fit for the purposes for which goods of the same type are normally used. For example, a car must be fit to be driven on the road (unless you have been specifically told that it is not.)
- they are fit for any particular purpose for which the consumer requires them and which was made known to the seller at the time of conclusion of the contract, and accepted by the seller. For example, if you specifically request a right-hand drive car from a motor dealer, and he agrees in the contract of sale to supply you with one, he cannot then supply you with a left-hand drive car.
- their quality and performance are satisfactory, given the nature of the goods and taking into account the public statements made about them by the seller, the producer or his representative. Here, an assessment of the specific agreement will be necessary. For example, if you buy a camera on the basis of it having special features, it must have those features.
- For more information see-
Your Europe Shopping Advice
A common set of consumer rights for consumers are valid no matter where in the EU the goods are purchased, which are enforceable for at least 2 years from delivery of the goods. In Ireland, there is limitation period of 6 years within which a consumer can bring an action against a trader.
For example, if you order a laptop which turns out to have less memory than it is supposed to have, the problem may not be obvious to you immediately, but it is still an inherent fault in the product which the trader must remedy if you discover it within the limitation period.
When a consumer reports the lack of conformity to the seller, they may be entitled to expect:
- that the goods be repaired or replaced free of charge within a reasonable period and without major inconvenience to the consumer;
- for a reduction to be made to the price, or for the contract to be rescinded (i.e. the contract ends, as if it was never present), if repair or replacement is impossible or disproportionate, or if the seller has not remedied the problem within a reasonable period or without major inconvenience to the consumer. The consumer is not entitled to have the contract rescinded if the lack of conformity is minor e.g. scratch on the outer plastic cover of a CD case.
In addition to your rights as outlined above, the seller may also offer you a guarantee. Any such 'commercial' guarantee is, importantly, in addition to your other rights, as above. It is not instead of them.
A commercial guarantee is defined as 'any additional undertaking given by a seller or producer, over and above the legal rules governing the sale of consumer goods, to reimburse the price paid, or to exchange, repair or handle a product in any way, if they do not meet the specifications set out in the guarantee statement or in the relevant advertising'.
Any commercial guarantee offered by a seller or producer will be legally binding under the conditions laid down in the guarantee document and the associated advertising. The guarantee must state that the consumer has statutory rights and clearly state that these rights are not affected by the guarantee. At the consumer's request, the guarantee must be made available in writing.
For example, a seller might offer you a '6 month guarantee' with a car, or a computer. This '6 month' guarantee will be in addition to, not instead of your legal rights as outlined above. Equally, if the seller offers you the car or the computer at a lower price, on a 'no guarantee' basis, this only means that you don't have this additional level of protection; you still have your legal rights, and can still seek redress.
The guarantee must state its content, in simple and understandable terms, and indicate the conditions for claiming under it, i.e. how long it lasts and where it applies, and the name and address of the guarantor. For example, you may buy a car in the UK which has a 3 year guarantee, but the guarantee may only valid for 2 years in Ireland- you need to ensure that you understand its scope before you agree the sale.