Commercial warranties in Europe
Commercial warranties have become an integral part of marketing, especially for electrical appliances and audio-visual equipment.
Update: Feb 2015
However, many consumers express confusion with regard to the guarantees and warranties which they are entitled to. Both the Directive 1999/44/EC on the sale of consumer goods and associated guarantees (the Consumer Sales and Guarantees Directive) and the Directive 2011/83/EU on consumer rights (the Consumer Rights Directive) include specific rules related to commercial warranties.
The seller has several obligations with regard to the timing of providing information, the form to be respected, and the content of the commercial warranty.
The duration of commercial warranties in EU member States is usually between 1 and 5 years, and is 2 years in most cases (as is the case for the LEGAL GUARANTEE). More expensive items usually have a longer warranty which often applies to specific parts of the product.
Commercial warranties vary between countries. In some Member States it is more common for commercial warranties to be offered against payment than in others. In some, they must be offered free of charge. For warranties offered against payment, the costs vary considerably and, especially given the duration of the contract and depreciation in value, the benefit of a commercial warranty varies considerably as well.
Directive 1999/44/EC and the national transposition laws provide protection to consumers when they purchase defective or non-conforming goods. However, the duration of the legal guarantee is limited and it is not always easy to prove the existence of a defect. Commercial warranties therefore can have benefits for consumers. The ECC-Net, based on its case handling experience and the checks performed online and offline, is able to draw up a list of the main advantages of commercial warranties.
- Its duration is longer than that of the legal guarantee.
- Consumers do not have to prove the existence of a defect, particularly after the first six months.
- Consumers get a replacement item during repair.
- The complaint procedures are smooth.
- Consumers do not need to organise shipping of the defective items
- It foresees a mechanism to ensure that a repairer comes to the consumer's home
- All costs for analysing the item, repair or replacement are borne by the guarantor.
- Direct replacement of the item with no attempt to repair
- All issues are covered regardless of the case, including water damage, accidental breakage and oxidation.
- Consumers can usually contact any representative of the producer or reseller (if it is a producer warranty) for application of the warranty,
- It is usually an accessory to the item, and can be included in any re-sale.
- It may offer a “cooling off” period. If the consumer is not satisfied with the product, bigger brands often offer a total refund or a voucher to the value of the purchase price.
Commercial warranties might also overlap with other insurance policies that a consumer might have.
Consumers have reported cases to the ECC-Net in which they felt discriminated against on geographical grounds, either because they purchased an item in another country or because the commercial warranty conditions of their home country are not as beneficial as those in another Member State.
Usually the situation is as follows: a seller based in one EU Member State offers goods for sale along with the possibility to have them delivered to another Member State. At purchase he/she proposes a commercial warranty on the item.
The warranty might have geographical restrictions limiting its application to the country of the seller, or specific cross-border conditions (shorter warranty period in the consumer's home country than in the country of sale, etc.).
Article 20 of Directive 2006/123/EC of 12 December 2006 on services in the Internal Market prohibits discrimination based on nationality or place of residence unless justified by objective reasons. As such, each situation must be analysed on a case-by-case basis.
However, a seller offering a commercial warranty in a cross-border context should be well aware of the specificities of the warranty. If it is limited to the country of sale, the consumer should be made aware of this. Being particularly interested in consumer protection in a cross-border context, the ECCs asked during check n° 4 in the shops (total number of checks 79) if there were any geographical restrictions to commercial warranty cover. It seems that only a fifth of the sellers are aware of the geographical restrictions of the warranties they supply. 7 sellers responded that there are geographical restrictions and that the commercial warranty is only valid in the country of sale or in countries where the producer has a representative. 8 sellers claimed that there are no geographical restrictions.
You will find here the full report of the ECC-NET.
If you wish to have a more country specific look, for a general overview regarding legal guarantees and commercial warranties, the ECC-Net summarises the situation in each of the participating countries in a country fact sheet that you will find in our European map.
To allow you to find your way around commercial warranties and reach a deal which benefits you, you can use the check lists also included in the Europe map before subscribing, especially for warranties involving costs.
As commercial warranties have become an integral part of marketing and such offers must be made in accordance with consumers' rights under the legal guarantee of conformity which applies in every EU Member State, Iceland and Norway and to every product sold to a consumer, the ECC-Net also developed check lists allowing sellers to make sure that their commercial warranties meet requirements.