Brussels, 28 October 2010
Consumer rights: European Commission asks the Czech Republic to comply with rules on the right to return faulty goods; closes case against Greece
The European Commission has sent a formal request to the Czech Republic to ensure full compliance with the EU's Directive on the sale of consumer goods. In the so-called “reasoned opinion” (the second stage of EU legal action), the Commission asked the Czech Republic to remove restrictions on consumers' right to return faulty goods. The Czech Republic has two months to respond to the reasoned opinion under EU infringement procedures, failing which the Commission may refer the case to the EU’s Court of Justice. Meanwhile, the Commission closed infringement proceedings against Greece after it improved rules on the sale of consumer goods. The Commission had sent a reasoned opinion to Greece in March 2010, requesting Greece to amend its legislation to ensure that Greek consumers enjoyed the full protection of EU rules.
The EU law on the sale of consumer goods (Directive 99/44/EC of 25 May 1999) aims to ensure consumer protection and strengthen consumer confidence in cross-border shopping. The legislation lays down minimum rules to protect consumers' rights – like the right to return faulty products – no matter where someone buys a good.
The Commission called on the Czech authorities to make sure their consumer protection rules do not limit consumers' right to return goods.
Under the Directive on the sale of consumer goods, consumers who have bought defective goods may ask sellers to repair or replace them or give a refund within a period of at least two years. In contrast, the current Czech rules provide for much shorter time limits for certain categories of products, including goods that still have to be produced or manufactured, food, feed and goods for which there is a sell-by date.
In addition, the Directive contains certain provisions on so-called commercial (or voluntary) guarantees or warranties, which a seller or manufacturer may offer, in addition to the rights which consumers enjoy against the seller directly by law. Since several of these rules appear to be missing in the Czech legislation, consumers may face legal uncertainty when invoking rights under a commercial (or voluntary) guarantee. For instance, Czech legislation does not require the guarantee document to indicate expressly that the guarantee does not affect the consumer's legal rights against the seller.
Following the Commission's reasoned opinion of 22 March 2010, Greece has removed certain restrictions on consumer rights in relation to faulty products which were not compatible with the EU Directive on the sale of consumer goods. The Commission has now closed the case.
Under the previous Greek rules, consumers lost their legal rights if, on the delivery of a product, they accepted the product without reservation although they knew of the fault. In addition, in cases where consumers claimed that the product was faulty, sellers could impose a time limit within which consumers had to demand either the replacement of the product or cancel the contract, at the risk of loosing these rights.
In 2009, having established that there were various deficiencies in the implementation of Directive 99/44/EC in a number of Member States, the Commission opened infringement cases for inadequate implementation against nine Member States. Five of these cases, including the one against Greece, have now been closed, mostly following legislative changes in the Member States concerned. Four cases (the Czech case, as well as cases against Estonia, Poland and Slovenia) are still open.
Justice Directorate-General Newsroom:
Homepage of Vice-President Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship:
For more information on EU infringement procedures, see MEMO/10/530