Shopping in France: Returns, Exchanges, and Consumer Rights


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Shopping in France: Returns, Exchanges, and Consumer Rights

Moving to another country, inevitably, some differences will be encountered, and consumer law and rights in France may be an area of interest to newcomers.

In any country, there’s nothing more irritating than buying something only to find out it is faulty when you reach home. So, what are your legal rights, and how do you go about returning or exchanging these items?

Consumer Rights in France

In France, consumer rights are protected with two regimes covering defects to the items purchased: a Legal Guaranteeand a Commercial Guarantee or Warranty. As its name implies, the first one refers to the law that obligates the seller to offer a guarantee. Commercial warranties do not have legal status, and whether to offer it or not is up to the seller.

France’s Commercial Guarantee

Generally, goods such as, for example, electrical goods, a car or even a settee come with a Commercial Guarantee. This allows the consumer to be reimbursed, or the item repaired or replaced. However, this may be a free service, or you might have to pay and, as to which service you are entitled to (reimbursement, repair or replacement), you need to be clear about the guarantee for that particular item before making your purchase. Each seller or manufacturer is free to decide their own terms and for how long these terms exist. This could be very different from what you may have come to expect, so always check the exact nature of the guarantee that comes with a particular item.

France’s Legal Conformity Guarantee

There is also a Legal Conformity Guarantee which means the product has to be fit for purpose, and it is to cover the consumer against obvious problems or faults present at the time of delivery/receipt of the item.

The consumer is also covered against hidden faults at the point of delivery/receipt of the item (garantie legale des vices caches). The consumer must, however, be able to prove the pre-existence of the hidden fault.

More information on legal rights can be found on the French government website here and on the EU Consumer Centre website here.

Exchanging faulty goods

In practice, it is sound advice to keep your receipt, read and complete any warranty information that requires sending off or registering online and, keep the box the item came in. If your product needs sending away to be repaired, you will often be expected to have the original packaging. Again, this may be a new practice to many.

If your product is faulty, you may be asked to take photographs of the fault.

Be prepared to be patient and understanding. You might be used to a swift, no-quibble swap in your home country. In France, items are often sent back to the manufacturer for repair, and you may need to provide your details. Keep in mind that a repair is surely better for the environment.

When shopping in France, the consumer website Que Choisir can be useful to assist in making informed purchases.

Returns: How to Return Goods in France

Under French Consumer law, you are entitled to return a purchase within seven days if you change your mind. Within this seven-day time limit, no reason is necessary; you may have simply had a change of heart. You are then entitled to be reimbursed within 30 days under La Code de la Consommation – le Droit de Retractation.

There are situations, though, when this law does not apply. For example, if you have waived your right to this 7-day cooling-off period. Also, any perishable goods are not covered; audio/video and computer software that has been opened by the customer is not covered; some services are not applicable either, and the purchase of magazines and newspapers are also not covered by this law.

In a shop, when buying clothes, for example, if you ask, many shops will allow exchanges up to 30 days with proof of purchase. Again, keep all packaging and do not remove tickets if possible. Refunds may be possible, but they may only be available as store credit (bon d’achat).

When shopping online, do read the returns policy carefully before making your purchase. Often, it is 14 days after the item has been received. Make sure you take note of any delivery charges too. It is worth finding out if your receipt/facture is your guarantee or whether you need to register your proof of purchase online in order to benefit.

Returns and Exchanges in France: Useful Phrases

J’ai acheté ce, cet, cette ******** (item) la semaine dernière et il/elle ne fonctionne plus

I bought this ****** last week, and it is no longer working.

Je voudrais être remboursé car cet article est défectueux.

I would like to be reimbursed because this item is not working.

Combien de temps faudra-t-il pour la réparation, s’il vous plaît ?

How long will the repairs take, please?

Avez-vous besoin de plus d’informations de ma part ?

Do you need any further information from me?

Est-il possible d’échanger cet article, s’il vous plaît ?

Is it possible to exchange the item, please?

Happy Shopping!

France has so much to offer the consumer with a wealth of quality products. Many artisans and small businesses thrive in France and are worth searching out when looking for something a little bit special. Having a better idea of your consumer rights in France surely makes for a happier shopping experience.

The information in this article is provided for informational purposes and does not constitute legal, professional or financial advice. We encourage you to seek the advice of a relevant professional before acting on any of this information. Any hyperlinks to other resources are provided as sources and assistance and are not intended as an endorsement.

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Carol, a teacher from Hurworth in Darlington, lives in Charente in South-West France, where she runs La Grue Gites with her family.