Can I cancel a purchase I have made? How should a trader repair or otherwise compensate for a defect in a product or service? The Consumer Protection Act provides the answers to questions such as these. The consumer authorities provide help in a dispute.
The Consumer Protection Act applies when you buy products or services from a trader for your own, private use.
The Consumer Protection Act does not apply in business-to-business trade or in trade between two private persons– the selling of second-hand cars, for example, is generally conducted between two consumers, so care should be taken in such cases.
The basic obligation of the consumer is to pay for the product or service in full and at the agreed time. The seller's basic obligation is to supply the product as agreed, at the agreed time and for the agreed price.
Many disputes, such as those concerning renovation or construction, stem from the fact that the delivery times and prices have only been agreed verbally. For this reason it is worth having a written contract for larger projects and insisting that the most important matters are written down in the contract.
Legally, the purchase of a product or service signifies the making of a contract. Neither party can unilaterally vary a contract. This means that you cannot simply back out of a purchase agreement you have made, even though you subsequently regret having made it.
A consumer can only return a defect-free product and get the purchase price refunded if the seller agrees. In this case the seller can, if he so wishes, demand reasonable compensation, in other words a so-called cancellation charge. If a consumer is unsure about the suitability of the purchase, it is best to try to purchase the product on approval, and ask for this to be marked on the receipt.
Many shops and department stores offer consumers the right to exchange or return products. This is a non-obligatory customer service on their behalf, and the shop itself can set the conditions for returning products.
Factors that affect the assessment of moderate compensation in cases of dispute include the uniqueness of the product ordered, the extent to which the product ordered had been manufactured at the time of cancellation, and the actual costs incurred to the seller.
In distance selling (e.g. selling over the telephone, by post and over the Internet) the product is not seen and cannot be inspected in advance. In doorstep-selling the offer comes unexpectedly and the purchase decision must be made quickly. For these reasons there are special regulations for distance and doorstep selling, which include the right to return the product within 14 days. The cancellation period with regard to time-shares is 10 days.