Warranty: what rights do you have?

It is a common misconception that equipment comes with a two-year warranty. That period is not mentioned in the law at all. In some cases, the warranty is even much longer. What's up with that? We summarize the facts.

Of course you hope that a product will continue to work for a long time, but sometimes it is disappointing. Suppose a television stops working after three years: do you call a repairman or do you go back to the store? Many people choose the repairman. Not wise, because it certainly makes sense to approach the seller after three, four or even five years. However, some conditions and caveats apply.

What's in the law?

Article 7:17 of the Dutch Civil Code states that a consumer is entitled to a sound product. The device should function without any problems for a reasonable period of time. The condition is that the consumer handles it normally. “For example, if a computer is used 24 hours a day as a network computer, that is not normal use,” says Saskia Bierling of ConsuWijzer, part of the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM).

Confusion about warranty period

“We get a lot of questions about the subject,” says Olav Wagenaar of legal services provider DAS. “Understandable, because many sellers do not fully or even incorrectly inform the consumer.” This confusion has two causes.

1. The period of two years is indeed mentioned in the European Purchase and Warranty Directive. That is a minimum period within which the product must – in any case – meet the normal expectations of the consumer. In the Netherlands it has been decided not to include that specific term in the law. The thinking behind it is that some products should even last much longer. Washing machines and televisions are good examples of this.

2. The confusion is exacerbated by the fact that many products come with a manufacturer's warranty. This is often two years and you can see it as a bonus. Sellers like to state that period when selling. They usually do not say that there are also legal rules about how long a product must last.

Manufacturer's warranty and the law

It is important to distinguish between what is legally determined with regard to warranty on the one hand and factory warranty on the other. The legal guarantee obliges a seller to repair or replace a defective product free of charge. “If he can't do that, the consumer is entitled to a refund,” Bierling explains. You can see the factory warranty as an extra, so it comes on top of the legal warranty. There is nothing in the law about factory warranty. The manufacturer may determine the conditions himself. But the legal warranty takes precedence over the manufacturer's warranty. “If the seller is addressed, he cannot hide behind the manufacturer's policy.”

How long is the legal guarantee?

The law is pretty vague about exactly how long the legal warranty is. There is no fixed term; the product must function properly for a reasonable period of time. But what is reasonable? This depends on the type of product, the price and what was told at the time of purchase. Bierling: “It is related to announcements made in, for example, advertisements.” Because the law does not specify an exact term, the industry association for electronics UNETO-VNI has drawn up guidelines. This is used by shops that have joined it. This is true for many electronics stores. You can find out which ones they are at www.uneto-vni.nl. The directive stipulates that a television of one thousand euros or more must last for at least six years. A 250 euro radio must continue to work for at least three years. The table shows the terms for some common categories.

Will everything be reimbursed during this period?

In principle, a retailer must repair or replace the product during the stated period. If that fails, the purchase amount must be refunded. According to ConsuWijzer, if the product has been used for several years, it is reasonable if the customer also pays for part of the repair. This also applies in the event of replacement by a new one or dissolution of the purchase. “If a television has worked for five years, the consumer may not get a full refund,” Bierling says. Media Markt also applies this rule. “The distribution of the repair costs, for example, is in proportion to the number of months that the product has been in possession in relation to the average lifespan,” says spokesperson Ruth Leijting about the policy of the electronics store. “If a customer does not want to pay, there is the option to dissolve the purchase agreement. The value of the product is then calculated in proportion to its age and average lifespan.”

A voucher, is that allowed?

Some stores offer a voucher instead of refunding the amount. A store may offer this, but a customer does not have to agree to it. If the customer wants his money back, a retailer must comply.

If the shopkeeper resists

It is possible that the retailer does not cooperate. For example, he claims that the product was not treated properly and as a result broke. The law states that the burden of proof lies with the seller during the first six months. He must then prove that you have used the product carelessly. After that first six months, it is up to the consumer to provide proof. It varies how strict stores handle this. Leijting about Media Markt's policy: “Proving this is often difficult or even impossible for the buyer. In order not to make it unnecessarily difficult, we remove the burden of proof. Unless there is clearly a defect as a result of external calamity such as moisture, a fall, impact damage or misuse.”

Disputes Committee

If you cannot agree with a retailer, you can go to the Disputes Committee. Many electronics stores are affiliated with this. Information about this can be found at www.degeschillencommissie.nl. If the seller is not affiliated with this commission, the next step is to go to court. In such a case, it is important to estimate the costs. If you have legal expenses insurance, it is worth taking out.

Always back to seller

To make use of the warranty, always go back to the seller. It is not wise to address the manufacturer directly, because the purchase agreement has been concluded with the seller. So legally he has to solve the problem. If the seller is not informed that you are approaching the manufacturer directly, they may later reject a complaint. For example, he may object that he was not given the opportunity to repair the product himself, which could have turned out cheaper. “In practice, we see that stores often refer to the manufacturer,” says Bierling. “This can sometimes work faster, because the retailer also has to forward the product himself.” Still, sometimes things go wrong. "We get reports that the seller is disappearing from the picture and the consumer has to work it out with the manufacturer." It also happens that a manufacturer adheres to its own warranty conditions, while the consumer is entitled to repair, new product or money back on the basis of the law.

Help, the receipt has been lost!

When returning to the store for warranty, you are usually asked to provide proof of purchase. It is therefore important to keep the receipt properly. According to the Consumers' Association, a copy or photo of a receipt is also no problem. If that is still missing, it is possible to hand over another proof. Think of a bank statement if you paid via internet banking or an ATM. If it convincingly shows that the product has been purchased, that is sufficient.

Take out an extra warranty

Sometimes sellers offer an extra guarantee for an additional fee. This is attractive for a store: it generates extra turnover. But is it wise? Often it is superfluous. The retailer is obliged to deliver a product that lasts for a reasonable period of time. If the device breaks sooner, he must arrange for repair, a new product or a refund. An advantage of an extra guarantee is that the burden of proof is less difficult. Even after six months, the customer does not have to prove that he has handled the device with care. You can also consider an extra warranty if the warranty period is clearly longer. Think of a warranty for five years, while the legal warranty only applies for three years.

Do you have to accept a refurbished device?

Recently, more and more refurbished devices have been sold. They are second-hand devices that have been checked and – where necessary – repaired. Some retailers suggest replacing a broken product with a refurbished one. A customer does not have to accept that. He is (if repair fails) entitled to a completely new copy. The judge has ruled on this twice in a case against Apple.

Warranty on refurbished?

The popularity of refurbished products is increasing. These products are often on the shelves for attractive prices. Think of used iPhones, iPads and Samsung smartphones. Anyone who buys them from a recognized repair company has been entitled to a two-year warranty since the end of 2017. The trade association UNETO-VNI wants to boost the image of refurbished devices.

Warranty in other European countries

When purchasing a product in a country that belongs to the European Union (plus Liechtenstein, Norway and Iceland), the provisions laid down in the European Purchase and Warranty Directive apply. You are therefore entitled to repair or replacement for at least two years. Moreover, this must be done within a reasonable period of time. If that is not possible, then the customer must get his money back. In some countries, you must report a defect within two months of discovering it, as is the case in the Netherlands. If a company within the EU does not handle a warranty case properly, you can file a complaint with the European Consumer Center (ECC). This organization was created to help customers file their complaints with the disputes committee in the country of purchase.

Warranty outside Europe

Anyone who buys a product outside the European Union has to deal with the rules of the country of purchase. With one exception: if the foreign store focuses explicitly on the Dutch market, the same rules apply as in the Netherlands. Invoking the warranty abroad is always more difficult than at a Dutch store. Not only because of the distance, but also because of the language barrier. This certainly applies to Chinese online stores. To meet European customers, the Chinese AliExpress has arranged that smartphones and tablets have a one-year warranty. This is handled by insurer Allianz. For other products, it remains to be seen how the warranty will be handled. In any case, take into account a long repair time. Sometimes you also have to send a video in which you prove the defect. Anyone who buys in America will find the necessary information about warranty at Amazon, but here too, sending a broken product can cause delays.

Dropped laptop, warranty case?

Warranty does not cover careless use. Anyone who drops their laptop cannot make a claim under warranty. In such a case, you can find out whether insurance will cover the damage. If it happens at home, the damage may be covered by home contents insurance. Conditions do apply, because you may not have handled the device recklessly. Moreover, damage that you cause yourself is not always compensated. If a partner or child has done it, it is covered. Exact terms and conditions can be found in the insurer's policy. Home contents insurance only applies indoors. An accident in the garden will therefore not be reimbursed. Sometimes an accident in another house is reimbursed, for example a holiday home. Furthermore, insurers sometimes exclude smartphones and tablets. To insure them anyway, you can consider valuables insurance. Anyone who is on holiday can try to recover damage from the travel insurance. This usually reimburses a current value with a maximum. If the conditions state that you will be reimbursed a maximum of 300 euros, that is not such a high amount for a brand new laptop. In such a case, consider taking out a higher cover. Smartphones are also covered, with a maximum.

This gets fixed a lot

Some products are offered for repair more often than others. “Laptops, tablets and smartphones have become an integral part of everyday life,” says Media Markt's Ruth Leijting. “On those products, we see that a warranty is more likely to be invoked in the event of a defect than, for example, for a printer or e-reader.”

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