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Are used-car buyers covered in French law?

Buyers of used cars are only covered in exceptional circumstances by a guarantee in French law that protects the public against hidden faults in items sold to them.

The garantie des vices cachés means that if a buyer of an item, including property, later realises that it is in a far poorer state than they had thought and had been led to believe when they were sold it, they can take action. This can lead to them reneging on the sale, getting their money back or demanding the seller pays compensation or for repairs.

However, this ruling does not apply in most cases to second-hand cars, France’s top appeal court the Cour de Cassation has ruled. Faults in second-hand cars cannot necessarily be described as “hidden defects” as the vehicle is older and wear and tear is normal, the court ruled in a decision on May 20.

The ruling stated: “It must be proven that the defects found show exceptional wear and tear, otherwise the warranty for hidden defects does not apply.” In 2018, an official online service, developed in conjunction with the French government, was launched to allow users to access the history of a second-hand vehicle before deciding to buy it.

Histovec is a free and official public service that responds to legitimate demands for reliable information on used cars, and is aimed at buyers and sellers. See histovec.interieur.gouv.fr/histovec. The negative aspect of this site is that it relies on the voluntary submission of information.

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