In the specific case, a German consumer had bought a stove. 1½ years after the purchase (that is, within the 2-year limitation period) the stove became defective and the consumer handed it in for repair.
Since repair was not possible, the seller replaced the stove with a new appliance. However, the seller also required the consumer to pay 70 euro for the benefit obtained from use of the stove while it worked. The consumer refused to accept that and the case was brought before the European Court of Justice, which has now ruled in favour of the consumer.
The ruling rams it home that remedial action, such as replacement of a defective product, should be free of charge for consumers; after all, they only end up in this situation because the original product was defective. That is the responsibility of the seller and consequently the seller must bear all costs for remedial action.
The ruling is important to the many Danes who buy goods and services in Germany and other EU member states.
“This is how the rules have always been interpreted in Denmark, but it is good to know that the same interpretation will now apply in all other EU member states. Danes increasingly shop abroad, and with this ruling we avoid unfair discriminatory practices,” says Peter Fogh Knudsen, Director of European Consumer Centre Denmark.
The European Consumer Centres Network is a network of European consumer authorities working to promote consumer’s rights in the EU.
An advantage for the Danish business community
The ruling is also an advantage for the Danish business community. The previous German rules actually put Danish companies at a disadvantage compared with their German counterparts, which were entitled under German law to claim compensation for use of a product until the defect was discovered.
“In that way it has been more expensive for Danish companies to take back defective goods because the German companies have claimed compensation from customers. The new ruling levels the playing field,” says Peter Fogh Knudsen.
The ruling should not be confused with cases where consumers are entitled to cancel the purchase. In such cases, the purchase price is reimbursed to the consumer when the product is returned, and in some instances the seller may still be entitled to deduct an amount for use of the product.