Your legal guarantee and your right of withdrawal: do you know the difference?

Thanks to the legal guarantee and the right of withdrawal, consumers enjoy a strong position in disputes about purchases in Europe. But do you know the difference between these two rights, and do you know when you should rely on one over the other? Both of them have different consequences! The European Consumer Centre (ECC) Belgium has examined both consumer rights for you, and with the help of some concrete examples, will demonstrate how in some aspects these rights are very similar, and in others, very different.

The legal guarantee versus the right of withdrawal

The legal guarantee covers defects to all products you purchased in stores or online. It is the trader’s responsibility that the product is of a satisfactory quality and works properly. Exercising this right is completely free of charge and can be done for a period of two years after delivery.

The right of withdrawal only applies to purchases made from a distance or off-premises, including online purchases. It gives you the right to examine your product, as you would do in a shop. If the product does not meet your expectations, you are allowed to return it. Unless stated otherwise, you will have to pay the return costs. The right of withdrawal is valid for a period of 14 days.

You should invoke your legal guarantee if, for example, your vacuum cleaner stops working during the guarantee period. You can ask the seller to replace or repair your vacuum cleaner. You should invoke your right to withdrawal if, for example, you change your mind about your purchase and you would like to send your goods back to the seller, before having used them.

Watch out: many sellers use the same procedure for returning goods, regardless of whether you are using your legal guarantee or right of withdrawal. The seller might simply talk about ‘returning goods’ but you should always make clear which one of your rights you want to exercise.

Which right should I invoke? Do the test!

  • Imagine you have bought a pair of trousers from a webshop in size medium, but the trousers you receive are size large. You would like to return them. Guarantee or withdrawal?

    In this scenario the goods you ordered do not correspond to the goods you received. There is an issue of non-conformity. Thanks to your legal guarantee, you will not have to pay the return costs, but the seller is not obliged to reimburse your money. Instead, the seller can simply deliver a pair of trousers in the desired size.

  • Imagine you have bought a pair of trousers from a webshop in size medium. You try them on for size and realize that they do not fit.

    You received the goods you ordered, but apparently you misjudged your size. No problem. Thanks to your right of withdrawal, you are allowed to return your trousers. The seller will reimburse the price, including the shipping costs and all applicable taxes. The return costs, however, are yours to pay, unless the seller neglected to inform you about this before you placed your order. Or unless the seller agreed to pay them for you, of course.

  • Imagine you have bought a vacuum cleaner on the internet. Full of enthusiasm, you decide to do some early spring cleaning. Your enthusiasm fades away quickly when you realize your vacuum cleaner does not provide enough suction.

    The vacuum cleaner you received is not of a quality that a reasonable person would expect. Contact your seller as soon as possible and ask them to replace or repair the vacuum cleaner under the legal guarantee. Because the vacuum cleaner stopped working within the first six months after delivery, you do not have to prove that this is the result of a manufacturing flaw. The seller cannot charge you any costs.

  • Imagine you have purchased a purse from a webshop. Upon delivery you realize that the purse you’ve received is a counterfeit. That was not your intention at all!

    The purse is not in conformity with what you ordered. Under the legal guarantee, the seller has to replace your counterfeit purse with the genuine article. If he cannot do that, he has to reimburse you completely. Know that only bad faith sellers will deliver you counterfeit goods. Check the seller’s trustworthiness before you make your purchase and do the Web shop Check. Learn more about how to avoid counterfeit goods on the website of ECC Belgium.

  • Imagine you have purchased a purse in a shop. Back in the comfort of your own home, you realize you’ve changed your mind. You regret making the purchase and would like to return the purse to the shop.

    Because you bought the purse on the premises, you do not have a right of withdrawal. And because the purse does not have any defects, you cannot invoke your legal guarantee either. But even though they are under no legal obligation to do so, many sellers will still provide their customers with the opportunity to exchange their articles or ask for a reimbursement. The seller can set the conditions for an exchange or a reimbursement as they please (and might offer you store credit rather than a full reimbursement).

  • Imagine you have become a member of a dating site and had a couple of conversations with a potential partner. A couple of days later you come to the conclusion that this form of dating does not work for you, and you would like to cancel your subscription.

    You are allowed to cancel your membership. However, because you started using their dating service straight away, you consented to the immediate start of your subscription. The service was thus partially performed during the withdrawal period. While you have kept your right to withdraw, the seller is allowed to reduce your reimbursement with the value of the services he has already performed.

Legal guarantee and right to withdrawal: a summary

We will now summarize all the essential elements of both rights for your convenience. This will give you a handy overview of all the differences and similarities.

 

Legal Guarantee

Right of withdrawal

Which purchases? Consumer goods without exception. Consumer goods and services. There are exceptions.
Purchased from A European trader. Watch out for non-professional traders using online platforms. A European trader. Watch out for non-professional traders using online platforms.
Purchased at All purchases in Europe. At a distance (e.g. internet) or off-premises (e.g. door-to-door sales) in Europe.
Use For non-professional use. For non-professional use..
State of goods New and used. New and used.
Problem Non-conformity or defect. Change of mind.
Are you allowed to use the product? Yes, normal use. Goods: You are allowed to test the product the same way you would in a shop. No more, no less.
Services: If you expressly request immediate delivery, then you forfeit part of your right of withdrawal commensurate to the extent that you have used the service.

Time limits

2 years (may be shortened to 1 year for used goods).
The first 6 months you do not have to prove anything, but for claims outside that period the seller may require that you prove the defect is the result of a non-conformity or a manufacturing flaw.
14 days
• Starting from delivery (goods) or your order (services).
• If the seller neglects to inform you of this right, the 14 day period is increased with 1 year.
Duty to inform Yes, as soon as possible after you discover the problem (max. 2 months).  Yes, in writing or through an online withdrawal form. You have 14 days to do so, and you do not have to motivate your decision.
Returns Wait for the seller's instructions. In principle within 14 days after you informed the seller of your intention to withdraw. Do not return the goods unless the seller has given you clear instructions through his website, by e-mail or by mail.
You have a right to Repair or replacement. Possibly reimbursement or a reduction in price, under certain conditions. Reimbursement of the price of purchase, the shipping costs and all applicable taxes
Costs for consumers None. Return costs, unless the seller neglected to mention this in their terms and conditions of, or unless the seller agreed to bear those costs themselves.

More details about the legal guarantee and the right of withdrawal can be found on the website of ECC Belgium. Be aware that you might also have a commercial or manufacturer’s warranty in addition to your legal guarantee. These warranties are not statutory rights, but are contractual undertakings on behalf of the seller or manufacturer, which may be given free of charge, or sold at an additional cost.