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Faulty goods, what are my rights?

What guarantees do people have if goods are faulty and shops do not comply with the law, ie. will not replace the item?

WHAT guarantees do people have if goods are faulty and shops do not comply with the law – for example, if they will not replace the item? P.E.

When it comes to consumer goods, such as household electrical products, there are three kinds of guarantee. Two are a legal right - la garantie légale de conformité and la garantie légale contre les vices cachés – whereas you may also have a commercial guarantee on top, offered by the seller under certain contractual terms, often at an added cost.

Consumer body UFC-Que Choisir states many firms seek to persuade people to take out commercial guarantees and do not draw attention to the legal ones which are free of charge.

UFC-Que Choisir legal expert Nicolas Godfroy said, however, that in most cases, where they have one, people will make use of a commercial guarantee which should result in a quick replacement or repair.
If not, the garantie légale de conformité gives clear rights to the buyer and is simpler to make use of than the one for vices cachés (hidden faults).

This, lasting two years, means the item should do what it was advertised to do and correspond to the description. It may apply,
say, to an item that has broken down, one that was advertised as silent but is noisy, one that was meant to work wirelessly but does not, one that is not the same colour as advertised, etc.

The fault must have existed when it was bought and the law gives a presumption of this for six months (ie. it is up to the seller
to prove the contrary).
The recent Hamon consumer law extended this to two years (but this is not expected to be applicable for another two years). You should retain proof (such as your receipt) of when and where you bought it.
You then have the right to choose to either have the item replaced or repaired, although the seller may impose one or the other if one option would “obviously” be much cheaper for them (eg. a simple repair as opposed to replacing a costly machine).

Online consumer association e-litige states firms frequently try to impose a repair, meaning an added wait. In fact, said Mr Godfroy, it depends on the item and fault. “If it’s a little component that’s simple to replace they’ll repair it but, if for example it’s a TV with a faulty screen, they’ll often just replace it instead.”

However the law further states that you can demand reimbursement if the repair or replacement is impossible or takes longer than a month – meaning, that, in theory, your wait should not be too long. Legally you may also demand reimbursement if the solution proposed “creates major inconvenience” with regard to the use you wanted to make of it.

Usually things can be resolved in discussion with the shop, Mr Godfroy said. However problems may sometimes arise. Apart from a refusal to replace, for example, the shop might claim the fault was not present on purchase and is due to the buyer having used it incorrectly. It should however point to factual evidence of this (eg. sand inside a camcorder).

In the event of a disagreement, one avenue is to write a recorded delivery letter putting the firm on notice (mise en demeure) to comply in a set time, such as 15 days.
Otherwise, if they refuse, you could apply to a court - in practice the local tribunal de proximité (unless sums of more than €4,000 are involved) which is free and does not require the use of an avocat. Mr Godfroy said a process for urgent matters called le référé (available at the next level tribunal d’instance) may obtain a fast judgement, though this option is less used.

He added that should you go to court there is no need to engage expenses such as paying an expert to prove your case if you are in the presumption period.
“It’s possible the firm will call on one, but usually they send an employee. You can say they are biased and often the judge will agree. If they call on an expert they are supposed by law to use an independent, impartial one.”

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