Reader Question: If I buy something during the French winter sales and I end up not liking it, can I return it for a refund or exchange?
France’s winter sales (soldes d’hiver) began on January 11 across most of metropolitan (mainland and Corsica) France and will last until February 7.
During the sales, it is not uncommon to see a sign saying: ‘Les articles soldés ne sont ni repris ni échangés’ (Sale items are neither returnable or exchangeable).
However, according to the French government this is bad practice by the shops as they must provide refunds or exchanges if the item is faulty.
For example, if there is a vicé caché (hidden fault) your usual rights apply and you can take it back and ask for a repair, replacement or refund.
This will partly depend on the goodwill of the shop, but legally-speaking, a vice caché is defined as a problem with the item that makes it unsuitable for use and which existed at the time of purchase but was not obvious.
For example, if you buy an electrical product but when you get home you find it does not work, you may take it back and ask for a refund.
Some shops will also continue to offer refunds and exchanges on sale items where you simply changed your mind about it or found that a piece of clothing was the wrong size, for example, but it is best to check this before you buy as this is not legally enforced.
In addition if the item was bought along with any additional commercial warranty from the shop then that may also come into play, depending on the terms and conditions.
What about items bought online?
Sale purchases made at a distance from French businesses, for example on the internet, follow the same rules with regards to faulty items. They also benefit from the same ‘cooling-off period’ as non-sale items. This means that products bought over the phone, through a catalogue or online can always be returned within 14 days of delivery, for a refund or exchange, without having to explain yourself.
The same rules also apply to distance purchases in the EU.