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Complaints: what are the deadlines?

You can claim for two years from the date of purchase and your claim should be processed within 30 days. This is the general rule we have fixed regarding complaints. However, this basic rule does not always apply. What are the time limits for making a claim and which goods are subject to shorter time limits?

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General length of the guarantee period

If you are buying goods as an ordinary consumer, you are generally covered by a two-year warranty period during which you can make a claim. Sometimes you can get a longer warranty for an extra charge.

So if the seller gives you (and it is his legal obligation to do so) a two-year quality guarantee, he is guaranteeing the condition of the item for a certain period of time. This means, for example, that you will be able to boil water in a kettle, wash clothes in a washing machine or wear and use the shoes you have bought for at least two years.

However, if this is not the case and the product you have bought is broken and does not work, you should claim it. It is important whether the defect occurred within the first six months of receipt. If this is the case, there is a rebuttable presumption that the defect was already present at the time of purchase and receipt. Alternatively, the seller would have to prove that he sold the item without a defect and thus rebut the legal presumption. If you have had the goods for less than six months, you can claim for the goods to be repaired or replaced.

Tip: If you are buying goods from foreign e-shops, especially outside the EU market, we strongly recommend that you read the seller’s terms and conditions before buying. If you receive a faulty product, try to claim it and ask for a discount or refund, but do not send the goods back (e.g. photograph or otherwise document the fault). It can cost more money to send goods abroad in a complicated and expensive way than to buy a new product.

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For goods older than six months, we distinguish between removable and non-removable defects.

If the defect is removable or if the defect is irremovable, but at the same time such defect does not prevent the proper use of the item (e.g. aesthetic defect), you can claim a repair of the item or a reasonable discount on the price of the item (corresponding to the difference between the value of the item with the defect and the value of the item without the defect).

If the defect cannot be repaired and the thing cannot be used properly because of the defect, you can claim cancellation of the contract or a reasonable discount on the price of the thing.

Tip: An amendment to the law is currently being drafted which will allow this statutory presumption to be applied not only in the first six months (as now) but in the first year after the goods are received. This should strengthen consumers’ rights. However, the forthcoming amendment also states that if an item is not already defective when it is taken over, you cannot claim it, which has been possible until now.

It is not possible to shorten the warranty period by law, even by agreement of both parties. The warranty period can only ever be extended.

The time limit for making a claim as a customer must be distinguished from the time limit for processing the claim. Once you have made a claim, the seller must endeavour to settle the claim without undue delay, within a maximum of 30 calendar days. The seller is required by law to make a decision immediately, or within 3 working days in complex cases.

The period of time during which you cannot use the defective item, i.e. from the time you make the claim until it is settled, is not included in the total two-year (or other) period for making a claim, in other words, the two-year period is extended by this time.

The trader must give you confirmation of when you made the claim and how long it took to carry out the repair.

It is an administrative offence to fail to settle a claim within the statutory period of 30 days. If necessary, you can contact the Czech Trade Inspection Authority to initiate proceedings.

However, we cannot talk about a uniform length of the guarantee period that would apply to all goods. The period during which goods can be claimed varies according to their nature.

Complaints and warranty periods for foodstuffs

For perishable goods, such as food, yoghurt and bakery products, there must be a time limit for use. This is the minimum shelf life.

  • The best before date is the date until which the food should remain of good quality and with all its original characteristics. It is typically indicated on canned and other non-perishable foods. However, these foods can usually be eaten after the best before date. At most, it will not have the same taste and smell. However, if the packaging is intact and the food has been stored properly, it should be safe to eat for days (sometimes weeks) afterwards.
  • In contrast, the expiry date mentioned above indicates until when it is safe to eat the food. It can be found on meat, sausages, dairy products and generally perishable foods. In contrast to the best before date, it is no longer recommended after the expiry date because of the risk of health problems.

The possibilities of making a claim on food are therefore limited in principle by these time limits. If you are not satisfied with the food you have bought, for example if it is mouldy, smells bad or is a different colour (meat) than it should be, you should make a claim. You should complain without delay.

Complaint period for feed

Feed is also a perishable good that is not covered by the statutory 24-month guarantee period. The warranty is limited to the minimum shelf life, which is always stated on the packaging.

Returns period for electronics

In the context of the sale of electronics such as tablets, mobile phones and laptops, we encounter two situations where there is talk of reducing the general two-year warranty period.

The first is the sale of used electronics. We are not now talking about purchases in second-hand shops or from private individuals via various online sales platforms. We are talking about the purchase of second-hand goods that have been returned by the original customer and put back on sale by the retailer. We also see this with large online retailers such as Alza, Mall, etc. It is true that used goods can be claimed in the same way as new goods. However, the seller has the right to reduce the period for claiming liability for defects to half of the general claim period, i.e. 12 months. This must be notified to the customer in advance, as well as the fact that the goods are used.

The second situation where a shorter warranty period is mentioned is batteries that are part of electronics. However, as Czech courts have repeatedly ruled, batteries are part of a product that is subject to a statutory 24-month liability for defects. During this period, you can also claim for a defect in the battery if, for example, it leaks or bulges (without you causing it). However, battery life is another matter – in layman’s terms, the fact that your phone won’t last as many hours of use after a year or two as it did after purchase. Reduced battery life is a normal feature of a battery and cannot in itself be grounds for a claim. According to the case law of the District Court in Pribram, the standard decrease in battery capacity after 24 months should be about 50%.

Tip: The length of the warranty period can also be reduced if you are buying goods as a business. This is discussed in more detail in our article.

Property warranty period

For real estate, we distinguish between warranty period and liability for defects.

The classic warranty period of 24 months applies to new buildings. Some companies offer an extended warranty in this context, usually of 3 years.
Liability for defects can be claimed up to 5 years after the property was purchased. Hidden defects must be claimed without undue delay, provided that if they become apparent within 6 months of taking possession, the law automatically assumes that they existed at the time of taking possession of the property.

After six months, the onus is always on the property owner to prove that the defect already existed at the time of acceptance.

In the case of immovable property, a distinction can be made between manifest and latent defects. Obvious defects are those that can be discovered during a normal inspection of the property (damage to walls or floors, non-functioning windows) or immediately after taking possession of the property. Hidden defects are defects that already existed at the time of handover but become detectable, or become fully apparent, only later. Hidden defects may be, for example, poor waterproofing or leaking into the property.

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Author of the article

JUDr. Ondřej Preuss, Ph.D.

Ondřej is the attorney who came up with the idea of providing legal services online. He's been earning his living through legal services for more than 10 years. He especially likes to help clients who may have given up hope in solving their legal issues at work, for example with real estate transfers or copyright licenses.

Education
  • Law, Ph.D, Pf UK in Prague
  • Law, L’université Nancy-II, Nancy
  • Law, Master’s degree (Mgr.), Pf UK in Prague
  • International Territorial Studies (Bc.), FSV UK in Prague

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