Two-year legal guarantee

If you buy something for private use from a European trader, you are entitled to a legal guarantee of 2 years. This is provided for by European legislation, Directive 99/44/EC. The term of 2 years may be shortend to 1 year for second-hand goods. Only the seller is responsible for this guarantee. He is therefore not allowed to refer you to the manufacturer.

Discover how you are protected in Belgium:

What products are covered?

The two-year legal guarantee is valid for all material goods (such as a car, TV and smart phone), which you buy from a trader as a private person (hence not within the context of your professional activities). New or second hand? It makes no difference. 

Please note: If you buy goods from a private person, for example via an online platform, different rules apply. The two-year legal guarantee does not apply and you are less well protected.

For what problems?

The two-year legal guarantee applies to any lack of conformity of your product. According to article 1640 of the Belgian Civil Code this will be the case if:

  • the quality of your purchase does not comply with the show model (for example, you bought a blue pair of trousers but received a red pair)
  • the quality and performance do not meet the expectation you had and which were created by the seller/manufacturer (for example, the quiet cooker hood turns out to be very noisy)
  • you cannot use the product for the purpose for which it is normally used, or for the special requirements you had and which were accepted by the seller (for example, the purchased vacuum cleaner does not suck properly)

If the seller installed the product incorrectly, or if you did so yourself and there was an error in the assembly instructions, you will be entitled to the legal guarantee.

Please note: the two-year legal guarantee does not apply if you were aware of the defect when you purchased the product or if it was caused by you (due to incorrect treatment, failure to comply with the instructions, etc.).

Who has to prove the defect?

This depends on the time when the defect first occurs:

  • during the first 6 months after purchase: the seller is automatically responsible. He must apply the two-year legal guarantee, unless he can prove that you caused the defect.
  • after the first 6 months after purchase: the seller may ask you to prove that the defect is actually caused by a manufacturing error. To prove this, you would need to call in an expert but this is too expensive. Sometimes it is not worth the effort.

What terms should be respected?

When you discover a defect, you must react immediately by contacting the seller within a period of 2 months. 

If you intend to go to court, you have one year from the moment the defect was first discovered. This period of 1 year cannot end within the period of 2 years.

If you discover the defect after two years, the system of ‘Hidden Defects’ applies (see Belgian Civil Code: article 1641 ff). You must prove that the defect already existed when you purchased the product. In that case, you may ask the seller for a refund or discount.

What solutions can you ask for?

You can ask the seller, unless this is impossible or out of proportion, to

  • repair the product or
  • replace the product

Please note: The period of 2 years does not start again after the product has been replaced! The period is only suspended for the time the product is repaired. 

If the repair or replacement is inconvenient or if it cannot be performed within a reasonable time, you may ask the seller to

  • refund your purchase
  • offer a price reduction

What about the costs?

The legal guarantee is free of charge for the buyer. The seller must pay all costs of repair and replacement, as well as those for delivery and return.

Did you buy a product from a web shop in Europe? Or have you returned the product and asked the seller for a refund on the basis of the invoice? Or does the seller take care of the return? Be sure to examine these options with the seller to avoid surprises later on.

How about purchases made abroad?

The legal guarantee is valid in every EU country, Norway and Iceland and is roughly the same everywhere. Some extra conditions may apply in a number of countries.

Consult the ECC study ‘Commercial warranties: are they worth the money?’, or read the summary.

Also handy: Have you bought a product abroad or do you intend to? The clickable map, compiled by ECC France, allows you to read how the legal guarantee works per country.