14 Days to Change Your Mind - Right of Withdrawal

Have you ordered something on the website of a vendor based in a European country? If the order is not suitable for you, you have 14 days to change your mind. This is the right of withdrawal.

The Right of Withdrawal: What is it?

The right of withdrawal is a window of time in which you can back out of an online purchase. You can cancel your purchase even if you already payed for it. A vendor must tell you about your right of withdrawal, or the lack thereof, and its limits before finalizing your contract.

Online or at distance purchases

Due to European directive 2011/83, a consumer has at least 14 days to exercise the right of withdrawal after online or at-distance purchases. This pertains to purchases done:

  • Through the internet
  • By mail
  • With a door-to-door salesperson
  • Through teleshopping
  • Outside of vendor’s establishment (door-to-door, organised events, the workplace, community centres, etc.)
  • In shop, following an invitation from the retailer to visit you

In a store, at an exhibition or fair: no right to withdraw!

  • All purchases made in a store in Europe are generally final and unchanging (with the exception of Lithuania, where the right of withdrawal within 14 days applies to in-store purchases, too). That is to say, you will likely have to pay a fee to cancel such a purchase. Many retailers offer their own policies that allow exchanges and/or refunds within a given period. Ask the shop owner about such policies before making your purchase.
  • If you have made a purchase at a fair or exhibition in Germany, you will not be able to return it free of charge. Within the context of European Union law, these are considered “business premises” of the vendor. Therefore, it is the same as buying goods or services in a shop.

Good to know: When a professional runs a stand a few days of the year at a trade fair, it is considered a “business premises” as long as, in the light of the appearance of the stand and the information relayed there, the consumer could reasonably assume that the trader is carrying out their activity there and would sell their products or services to the consumer. (According to the Court of Justice of the European Union (judgement of 7 August 2018).

Do I have the right to withdraw from all purchases?

No. Generally, you only have a right to withdraw when you make a purchase at distance and outside of the shop. Check above

Even with purchases made at distance, the right of withdrawal is not always applicable. Such cases include:

  • Renting seasonal and non-residential lodging, the transportation of goods, car rentals, catering services or leisure activities that must be provided on a certain date or within a predetermined period (examples: holidays, concerts, plane tickets, etc.);
  • Emergency repairs or maintenance of a vehicle;

A professional can also ask you to forfeit your right of withdrawal in order to provide services to you before the 14-day period ends, given your approval. For example:

  • Downloadable software purchased online;
  • Dating website subscriptions purchased for immediate access to the services.

Depending on the goods you purchase as well, you might not have the right of withdrawal:

  • Personally customized items (examples: engraved jewellery, photo albums);
  • Perishable items that may expire quickly;
  • Goods that you have already opened and may not be returned for health and safety reasons;
  • Sealedsoftware packages or audio and/or videorecordings which you have unsealed since delivery.

Financial services at distance

Depending on the type of financial services that you have purchased, your right of withdrawal or reflection may last 10 to 30 days, according to the European directive 2002/65/CE of September 2003 on distance marketing of financial services.

The following are examples of such financial services:

  • Online banking,
  • Consumer credit,
  • Investments,
  • Some types of insurance…

Attention: The right of withdrawal does not apply to financial services who’s “price depends on fluctuations of the financial market which may occur during the period of withdrawal” or whose “terms have been fully respected by both parties” (example: you cannot withdraw from your travel insurance if you already finished your travels).

Products on sale

You have the right to withdraw from on sale, second-hand, and out of stock items as long as you made the purchase at distance or outside of the shop. More information concerning sales.

Good to know: If you purchased an item and notice something is wrong with it that was not visible when you purchased it, the legal guarantee of conformity helps you.

However, if you have a right of withdrawal, it is better to make use of it within the 14-day period, because you do not have to explain the reasons for your withdrawal. 

How long is the period to withdraw?

In all EU countries, no matter where your vendor located, you generally have a minimum of 14 days to return your purchase. Your vendor can propose a longer withdrawal period but not a shorter one (this would be an abusive term).

If your vendor has not informed you of your right of withdrawal, this period is elongated by 1 year from the original expiration date of the first 14 days. If the vendor informs you of your right after your receipt, the withdrawal period will end 14 days after they have informed you.

The period begins the day after:

  • Your goods are delivered;
  • The finalization of a contract concerning the furnishing of the supply of water, gas, electricity or digital content.

If you have ordered multiple goods, as one order that are arriving separately on different days, the period of withdrawal expires 14 days after the receipt of the final package.

If this period expires on a Saturday, Sunday, or holiday, it will be extended until the following business day. 

How to withdraw?

The vendor should provide you information on the existence, conditions, and period of, and ways to exercise your right of withdrawal, as well as a form for withdrawal.

You do not have to justify yourself to the vendor, but you must inform them of your decision to withdraw.  

  • Reach out to the vendor in writing and save a copy of this. Use the withdrawal form given to you, or compose a clear message concerning your wish to withdraw. Letters and e-mails are the best option because in case of a dispute, you will have to be able to prove your withdrawal within the time constraints.

Good to know: Refusal of delivery or the return of a good without a declaration of withdrawal does not suffice to express your wish to withdraw. Nevertheless, certain vendors will accept or suggest refusal of delivery as a withdrawal. Keep the proof of this policy given by the vendor.

  • Send your order back within 14 days maximum if your vendor does not offer to pick it up him or herself. You must be sure that you are returning the good to the correct address. In certain cases, the return address and the address from where the packages are sent are not the same. If you are not sure, verify the cancellation Information or ask the vendor. Verify if the vendor provides you with a return shipping label. In any case, the items must be packaged securely. You may use the original packaging if it is still solid and in good state, but this is not mandatory. It is a good idea to take photos of the good and the package before sealing and sending it

Return shipping: Who pays?

The consumer may have to pay for return shipping, in case of withdrawal, according to the European Directive on consumer rights. If the vendordid not inform you of the costs of return shipping and your responsibility to pay for them, they are responsible for paying them. If theitem cannot be sent back by normal post, the vendor must tell you before the conclusion of your contract how much it will cost to ship.

For contracts concluded outside of the establishment, where the goods are delivered to the home of the consumer, the vendor must recover the goods at their own expense, if they cannot be sent back normally via post.

How much should the vendor reimburse me?

The vendor is held responsible to reimburse you in full for the amount you have paid, including the original delivery costs (unless you chose a more costly mode of delivery, for example express delivery).

If you do not return all parts of your order, you should be reimbursed for the items you sent back + a proportional delivery cost considering however many items were returned.

How long is the window for reimbursement?

The vendor has 14 days after they received your decision to withdraw to reimburse you. If the vendor recovers the items him or herself, they may defer the reimbursement until they recover the items, or until they receive adequate proof that you have returned the items.

Will the vendor reimburse me partially if I used the good/service?

For services that have commenced with your consent, before the withdrawal expiration date, if you choose to withdrawal, you will have to pay the vendor a proportional amount for the services furnished until your withdrawal. This cost will be proportional to the total cost of all the services. If the total price is unreasonable, the amount due should be calculated based on the current market value of the services provided.

Good to know: If the vendor did not have your prior consent to carry out the contract during the withdrawal period as well as proof that you are forfeiting your right of withdrawal, no amount will be due. 

In the case of purchased goods, you benefit from the right to examine said goods under comparable conditions to those of a store. Therefore, you do not have the right to wear a dress for an evening only to return it the next day, for example. You also do not have the right to watch the World Cup on a new projector just to return it the next day.

However, a vendor cannot impose depreciation on the item if you only used it to see if it was the correct size, in working condition, etc.

How can I get help in case of problems with the vendor?

  • In the event of a problem with a vendor in another Member state of the European Union, Iceland, Norway, or the United Kingdom, contact your country of residence’s European Consumer Centre.
  • If you reside in Germany and your dispute is against a vendor in Germany, contact the national contact point for information concerning ADR bodies in Germany or the  "Verbraucherzentrale" in your federal state.