Sale of Consumer Goods and Guarantees when shopping from another EU Country
Within the EU a common set of consumer rules apply. Therefore whether you are abroad on holiday or whether you have ordered a product from the internet the same consumer rules apply as if the product was purchased from Malta.
The Sale of Goods and Associated Guarantees Directive 99/44/EC prescribes that when buying goods and services, it is expected that the goods purchased are in conformity with the contract of sale. In other words, the consumer must receive what he paid for.
This means that the goods must comply with the description provided by the seller and must possess the same qualities as the products which the seller displayed as a sample or model. The product needs also to be fit for the purpose for which products of the same type are normally used. Furthermore it is assumed that if the consumer buys a product subject to the condition that it performs certain functions, it is expected that the product complies with the description that the consumer has informed the seller about it.
In order to avoid disappointments it is thus imperative that the terms of the contract of sale are clearly agreed upon especially when purchasing specific products.
Rights of the consumer
The seller is liable for any lack of conformity within two years from the date of delivery. When the lack of conformity emerges within the first six months of the delivery, it shall be presumed that it has existed at the time of delivery unless proof to the contrary is furnished or unless this presumption is incompatible with the nature of the goods purchased.
Remedies where there is lack of conformity
Where there is lack of conformity the consumer is entitled to have the product brought back into conformity free of charge either by repair or replacement within a reasonable time and with the least inconvenience to the consumer.
Where this is not possible, or if the situation is not remedied within a reasonable time, the consumer is entitled for an appropriate reduction of the price or for the contract of sale to be withdrawn.
These rights apply irrespective from which country within the EU the product was bought. In the case where the seller and consumer are situated in different countries, the seller is still liable for any lack of conformity. These rights apply both if the products were purchased from a shop or from the internet.
It is important that where there is lack of conformity, the consumer contacts immediately the seller. The seller even if situated in another country is obliged to rectify the problem without delay.
Commercial Guarantee and International Warranty
The seller may decide to offer the consumer additional protection by means of a guarantee. This is known as the ‘commercial guarantee’. The commercial warranty protects the consumer under the conditions which are laid down in the guarantee document.
A type of commercial warranty is what we call the international warranty. This guarantee as any other commercial warranty offers protection to the consumer under the terms listed in the guarantee document. Usually the international warranty is issued by the manufacturer and by virtue of this guarantee the manufacturer undertakes that around the world products of a certain brand will be serviced or repaired at an authorised agent where the consumer lives. However one must keep in mind that not necessarily in every country there is an authorised agent. In the circumstances the manufacturer may direct you to the nearest agent which may not necessarily be in your country of residence.
Therefore before purchasing a product one should not solely rely on the decision that the particular product carries with it an international warranty. It is important to verify whether there is an authorised agent in Malta which can execute the guarantee.
The consumer must keep in mind that any other warranty whether a manufacturer’s warranty or a commercial warranty is in addition and not instead of the basic consumer rights granted by law. Furthermore any commercial warranty offered by seller or manufacturer must clearly state that your legal rights are not affected by the guarantee.