Shopping is almost a rite of passage when you want to enjoy the French way of life, and any shopaholic can easily get carried away by the fantastic diversity of products on offer in l’Hexagone. To shop with peace of mind, it’s best to know a bit about consumer rights in France. That way, you’ll know what to do if you realise that you purchased a defective item, or how many days you have to return an item that you bought online.
Whether you purchase your item in an outlet or on a website, it is an obligation for the seller to clearly display its price. Also watch out for the delivery costs that you might have to pay when shopping online. It is also important to note that in France, cash payments in shops are limited to €3,000. For the majority of products, the French Taxe sur la valeur ajoutée (VAT) rate is 20 per cent.
In France, consumer rights are protected with two regimes covering defects to the items purchased: the legal guarantee and commercial warranties. As its name implies, the first one refers to the law that obligates the seller to offer a guarantee. Commercial warranties do not have a legal status and are more commercial. Whether to offer it or not is up to the seller, therefore they must be clear about it. In both cases, don’t forget to keep the packaging and receipts for your items so that it’ll be easier to assert your rights as a consumer.
Legal guarantees apply in three different cases. If the item you bought is not of the expected standard – for example if it is defective – the seller is liable for two years following the purchase. The item must be repaired or replaced during that period of time in accordance with a EU directive. Furthermore, it’s possible to choose to keep the product and get a partial refund or to restore it and get a total refund – a choice that you don’t have to justify.
The second case is known as the vice caché – a situation in which your item’s defect was not visible when you purchased it and made the product unfit for its normal use. Again, you have two years from the moment you discovered the defect to go back to the seller – but you cannot exceed the limitation period, which is five years from the purchase. The item can be totally refunded or partially so if you choose to keep it.
The last situation where legal guarantees apply is when defective products cause economic or bodily harm. It is the trader’s legal responsibility to exchange or refund the item within the next 30 days.
Commercial warranties are optional for the seller and can allow reimbursement, exchange or repair. They don’t change anything about the legal guarantees that continue to apply, but are more like a goodwill gesture or an additional service from the seller. This commercial guarantee called le service après-vente (post-sale customer service) must be clearly explained to you when you purchase the product.
There is no set returns period if you purchase your item directly from a shop. However, in the case of mail order, this period is 14 days from the date of receipt – sometimes it can be longer. It’s then better to send back the form with a copy of the receipt and the seller will have to refund you within a maximum of 30 days.
Finally, keep in mind that you also have consumer rights during the sales. Items on sale have the same guarantees as others in the above cases of defects or after-sales services. The returns period is also the same when you purchase online. Moreover, sellers are legally obliged to display new sales prices on the label or online. Bon shopping en France!
For more information, please visit www.europe-consommateurs.eu/en/home
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.
By Nelly Lesage
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