Defects in car sales in Germany and Finland

Before you buy a car in Germany, you should know what to do in case of a defect. If the vendor does not market their cars in Finland and the sale is concluded in another EU country, the legislation of the vendor’s country usually applies to the deal. It may differ from Finnish legislation. If you buy the car from a dealership, the vendor is responsible for ensuring that the vehicle is as agreed and at least complies with the minimum requirements of the EU directive. Depending on the applicable legislation, the level of consumer protection may also be better than the minimum requirements.

If you purchased your car in Germany, you should always contact the vendor as soon as possible about a defect. If you are not getting anywhere or you need advice, contact us at the European Consumer Centre. Our website also provides information on your rights when buying a car. The website of the Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority (FCCA) contains instructions and information about typical ways of resolving problems in cases where the car was purchased in Finland. Read below for information about typical defects in car sales in Germany and Finland.

Defects in Germany

While the duration of legal liability for defects is two years from the date of the sale in Germany, it can also be limited to one year in sales of used goods. In most cases, liability for defects in a used car is limited to one year, and the bill of sale contains an explicit clause stating this fact. This means that the liability for defects is valid for one year exactly, regardless of the mileage you may have driven if the defect occurs after one year. The life cycle of individual components is not factored in under the German legislation.

If you buy a used car in Germany and it develops a fault within six months of the sale, the assumption is that it was already faulty at the time of purchase unless the vendor can prove otherwise. In the fault develops more than six months after the purchase, the consumer has the burden of proof and must show that the car was defective when it was purchased. This is difficult to prove in most cases it the car has worked faultlessly in the meantime. The six-month period for determining liability for defects is not a warranty.

In Germany, the importer and manufacturer are not liable for any defects in a new or used car unless they have provided a separate commercial warranty for it. Under German legislation, you do not have a right to complain to a higher level in the supply chain. Commercial warranties are not usually available for used car sales, and factory warranties are often limited to the first owner of the car. If you purchase a car in Germany, in general you cannot assume that it has a factory warranty unless this has been agreed when concluding the sale and you have the relevant warranty documents.

If you buy a car in Germany, you cannot turn to the company that imports the same make to Finland: you imported the car yourself, and the company importing the same make into Finland did not hand it over for resale to the German dealer. Sometimes the importer may pay some of your costs in the spirit of goodwill, but they have no obligation to do so.

The vendor has the primary right to identify the fault and decide where it should be repaired. If the consumer has had the car repaired without giving the vendor an opportunity to identify the fault or repair it, in Germany the right to claim compensation from the vendor is lost as a rule. If a fault occurs, you should contact the vendor in writing straight away. If the vendor demands to investigate the fault, you must give them an opportunity to do so, but you can bring up the costs of taking the car to Germany for examination.

Defects in Finland

Rather than setting a limit in years for statutory liability for defects, under Finnish legislation goods can be expected to remain defect free throughout their expected service life/life cycle. The consumer may appeal to a defect in a product if its service life in normal use is shorter than what the consumer can expect by general standards. The expected service life/life cycle of a used car depends to a great deal on its parts; in its recent decisions the Consumer Disputes Board has found, however, that the life cycle of most car parts does not exceed 200,000 to 300,000 km.

The mileage is not the only criterion in this assessment, however. The car has a defect for which the vendor is liable if its condition is worse than what the consumer may generally expect considering the age of the car, its mileage, the purchase price and the information provided by vendor about the car. The consumer usually has to pay part of the repair costs, however, if the repairs improve the condition of the car. Some minor faults in a car may also be caused by natural wear and tear, for which the vendor is not liable.

The Finnish Consumer Protection Act presumes that a defect existed at the time the car was handed over if it occurs within six months of the handover. All faults occurring in a used car are not necessarily defects referred to in the Consumer Protection Act. The vendor is liable for rectifying the defect, unless they can prove the car was defect free when handed over. In Finland, you can still make appeal to a defect even if the initial six-month period has expired. In its past decisions, the Consumer Disputes Board has routinely found that if a defect considered to be a fault occurs in a car part before its normal life cycle ends, and this is not caused by a reason which the consumer can control, the consumer can also claim compensation for defects that occurred later than six months after the sale was concluded. The six-month period for determining liability for defects is not a warranty.

In the sale of a new car, the upper levels of the supply chain have a similar liability for defects as the vendor. This rule does not apply to the sales of used cars in Finland, either. This means that the liability of a previous level in the supply chain does not apply to the importer, as they did not hand over the car for resale to the consumer’s contracting party. In the spirit of goodwill, importers may in individual cases pay part of the repair costs. A used car may be covered by a factory warranty, however, and in Finland this warranty is generally considered to apply to the product even if it has changed owners.

The vendor also has a primary right in Finland to identify the fault and decide where it should be repaired, and having it repaired by someone other than a workshop selected by the vendor may only be considered when the repairs cannot be put off without causing unfair inconvenience to the consumer, for example if the defect occurs during a trip to another locality. Unlike in Germany, however, the consumer will not lose their rights even if they fail to follow this rule. In these situations, the vendor is as a general rule liable for the defect up to the costs they would have incurred if they had carried out the repair. This usually is a smaller amount than what the consumer pays to a third party for repairing the car.

Read more:

Sec­ond hand car (Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority)