Guarantees and returns – Germany
How long is the legal guarantee for new and second-hand goods?
The duration is normally 2 years but can be reduced to 1 year for second-hand goods.
If the product is defective, who is responsible for putting things right?
The seller, even for purchases made through an internet platform. However, the platform may have agreed to act as an intermediary so check the terms and conditions.
By when must the consumer notify the seller of a defect?
There is no specific deadline other than the legal period of 2 years from delivery of the goods.
Who has to prove the presence/absence of a defect and how long do they have to do this?
The seller must prove that the item was not defective for the first 6 months after the delivery of the product ("reversal of burden of proof"). After this time the consumer must prove that it was defective.
Is there a third party testing body that can help to provide proof?
The consumer can ask a repair shop for an expert opinion, but it might not be accepted by the seller. In the event of a court procedure, the judge may accept the opinion of the consumer's expert or ask for an independent expert opinion.
What remedies is the consumer entitled to free of charge? Is there a deadline for implementing the solution?
There is a "hierarchy of remedies":
- Firstly, repair or replacement according to the consumer's wishes, within a reasonable time and free of charge
- Secondly, refund or reduction of the purchase price if repair or replacement are not possible within a reasonable time frame.
What classes as a reasonable time frame may vary between cases. Therefore, when writing to the trader to ask for the legal guarantee to be applied, the consumer should agree on a deadline for remedy and inform the trader that if this deadline is not met, the consumer will cancel the contract or ask for a reduction in the purchase price.
Is the repaired/replaced product covered by a new guarantee?
The law does not say, but in general, after a replacement, the consumer can claim legal guarantee rights for 2 years. In the case of a repair, the legal guarantee is only extended with regard to the repaired or exchanged parts.
Can the consumer take action against the importer or any intermediary in the supply chain up to and including the producer?
Yes, but only if the importer or producer offer their own commercial warranty.
If no amicable solution can be found, what is the deadline for taking the case to court?
The prescription period for new goods is 2 years from delivery of the goods and 1 year for second-hand goods, unless there is a suspension of the statutory limitation period.
Are any other legal guarantees laid down in national law coexisting with the legal conformity guarantee?
No, in most cases legal guarantee rules take preference although the consumer may be able to make additional claims according to general contract law or tort law.
Who is responsible for application of the warranty?
The party offering the warranty, be it the seller, the producer or a third party guarantor. Always refer to the documentation provided.
On average, how long is a commercial warranty?
1 to 5 years, but in most cases 2 years as with the legal guarantee. More expensive goods usually have a longer warranty which often applies to specific parts of the product.
Is it free of charge?
Not necessarily. The trader can fix the conditions, so it can be free of charge or offered against payment.
Does it have to be confirmed in writing?
The seller has to provide the commercial warranty in a written document or in a durable and accessible format.
What information is required?
Content of the warranty, all essential elements such as duration, price and geographical coverage, details of the company offering it and a reminder of the legal guarantee.