Buying goods and services
The existence of the European Single Market gives consumers access to a wide range of products and services at competitive prices. European consumer rights legislation provides a set of rules to protect consumers across Europe when buying goods and services.
Your EU consumer rights
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. they should:
- 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.
- be fit for the purpose for which goods of the same type are normally used. The goods should also be fit for any particular purpose for which the consumer requires them and which was made known to the seller at the time of conclusion to the contract, and accepted by the seller.
- Show the quality and performance which are normal in goods of the same type and which the consumer can reasonably expect.
The Directive provides a uniform baseline for the protection of consumers in their dealings with the final seller, no matter where the goods are purchased within the EU/EEA. In particular, in the event of ‘lack of conformity’ consumers may require the seller to:
- Repair or replace the goods, in either case free of charge (e.g. shipping costs), or
- Apply a reduction in the price or rescind the contract (refund), if repairs or replacement are impossible or disproportionate, or cannot be completed within a reasonable time or without significant 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 The consumer is not entitled to have the contract rescinded if the lack of conformity is minor, e.g. scratch on the outer plastic cover of a CD case.
These remedies are enforceable against the seller where the lack of conformity exists at the time of delivery of goods, or if the said lack of conformity becomes apparent at a later stage, up to two years from the time of delivery. In Ireland, the actual limitation period to take legal action in such cases is six years.
For example, if you buy a laptop which turns out to have less memory than what was described, the problem may not be immediately obvious to you, but you may still be able to seek remedies from the seller within the applicable time limit.
If the lack of conformity becomes apparent within six months of delivery, it is presumed to have existed at the time of delivery and, accordingly, the seller will be required in such cases to prove otherwise or provide the remedies set out in the Directive.
However, if the problem results from damage and/or misuse by the consumer, the seller may refuse to offer any of the above mentioned remedies.
Guarantees and Warranties
A guarantee or warranty is an undertaking by a seller or producer to the consumer to reimburse the price paid, or to replace, repair, or proceed – during the period specified – in the manner set out in the relevant guarantee statement or advertising. These undertakings, even if provided in a voluntary basis, are legally binding on the offerer/guarantor under the applicable terms and conditions. In any case, guarantees/warranties are in addition to, and not a substitution for, your statutory consumer rights against the seller. Accordingly, if a seller offers you a car or computer at a lower price, on a ‘no guarantee’ basis, this only means that you don’t have this additional level of protection; your statutory rights as a consumer are unaffected and cannot be waived by way of contract or agreement between the parties.
If you are considering an extended guarantee/warranty/cover, or intend to make a claim pursuant to same, do check the applicable terms and conditions to find out exactly what is covered, i.e. all parts or just specific parts are covered. The guarantee must state its content in simple and understandable terms and indicate the conditions for claiming under it, e.g. how long it lasts and where it applies, and the name and address of the guarantor. At the consumer’s request, the guarantee shall be made available in writing or another durable medium.
Under the Services Directive 2006/123/EC recipients of services shall not be subjected to discriminatory conditions based either on their nationality or place of residence unless an objective justification can be provided.
Under Section 39 of the Sale of Goods and Supply of Services Act 1980, the supplier of a service is required to have the necessary skill to render the service, and to supply the service with due skill, care and diligence. Where materials are used, they will be sound and reasonably fit for the purpose for which they are required.
Links to legislation and additional information:
- Sale of Goods and Associated Guarantees Directive 1999/44/EC
- European Communities (Certain Aspects of the Sale of Consumer Goods and Associated Guarantees) Regulations 2003, S.I. No. 11/2003
- Sale of Goods Act, 1893
- Sale of Goods and Supply of Services Act 1980
- Services Directive 2006/123/EC
- European Union (Provision of Services) Regulations 2010
Learn more about faulty goods consumer rights in Ireland: consumerhelp.ie/faulty-goods
For further information on services within the EU, please visit ECC Ireland’s Services Directive page.
You may also find of interest our sections on Shopping Online, Alternative Dispute Resolution, and the European Small Claims Procedure.