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How to make a successful complaint?

Complaints about defective products are one of the most used consumer rights. What if you have a clear idea of the outcome of a complaint: you don’t want the goods repaired, but you want a refund? When are you entitled to it? And how do complaints and cancellations differ?

nespokojenost se zakoupeným zbožím, reklamace
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Chapters of the article

Complaints, withdrawal from the contract and return of goods.You have bought a new smartwatch, but for some reason it does not suit you. What to do with it? Under certain conditions, you can proceed in three basic modes:

  • Withdrawal – this is offered if you bought your watch from an e-shop, it shows no signs of use and 14 days have not yet passed since you received it. Then you don’t need to have any special reasons and simply return the watch, along with writing a withdrawal form. Most e-shops already offer this in a form and publish it on their website or attach it directly to the goods. Check the e-shop’s terms and conditions for how to return the goods. If the retailer allows you to bring the product to a brick-and-mortar store, then you will save on shipping costs. Some shops even offer to collect unwanted products at their own expense. In general, however, you pay the postage costs for returning goods in the event of a withdrawal and the retailer is not obliged to reimburse you in any way. You must return the goods with all accessories and in their original packaging intact.
  • Returning goods purchased in a brick-and-mortar store (or on the e-shop more than 14 days ago) – did you bring your watch home but then got tired of its appearance and would like to return it? This used to be a very rare case, but recently there have been a growing number of retailers who are pampering customers in this way as part of the competitive battle. Some offer the possibility of returning a purchased product for up to one year. This is particularly common with large retail chains such as IKEA and Decathlon, but you can also try your luck with a small retailer. In any case, you should show the receipt of the purchase and the goods are also supposed to be in perfect condition. Sometimes the only option offered is for the customer to spend the money returned in the store on other goods, in some cases it is even refunded back to the bank account with no obligation to buy again.
  • Returns – when a watch or any of its features stop working. A claim should be made in those cases where the purchased goods lose their functionality, do not match the contract, are defective, etc. For consumer goods, the period for which the seller is liable for defects is 24 months, or sometimes a longer warranty period can be agreed. This cannot, of course, be the case if you have caused the defect in the product by your own carelessness or mishandling.

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The complaint should be made immediately after you discover the defect. As a rule, you should apply directly to the trader, or exceptionally to a contractual service provider if this is expressly stated in the purchase contract.

Tip: We have addressed the issue of claim periods and the different length of the claim period for certain products or services in our separate article.

Shipping and postage costs for claims

The situation with the reimbursement of shipping and postage costs is different from the above-mentioned withdrawal from the contract. Since in the case of a claim, the manufacturer is presumed to have sold you a defective product, it is also up to the manufacturer to pay the necessary costs incurred by you in exercising your rights under liability for defects, i.e. the claim.Necessary costs can include, for example, postage or travel costs to the shop where you go to collect the repaired item. However, you must actively claim the costs and provide proof of the amount. When sending the goods, look at several options and look for the cheapest one if possible. The seller does not have to reimburse you for anything you choose.

How to make a proper claim?

You don’t usually need to look for a template to make a claim. In the vast majority of cases, you can just make a claim in person at the shop where you bought the goods. If the seller does not deal with the claim immediately (for example, by giving you an immediate refund or issuing you with other goods), they should draw up a claim report with you, giving the date of the claim, your identification details and a description of the product’s defect.

You can make a written claim, especially if you buy goods through an e-shop. You can follow the following instructions:

  1. State the name and address of the seller from whom you purchased the goods, together with the date of purchase and the order number.
  2. Describe what the product is, what the defect is and what you see as its malfunction.
  3. Suggest a specific solution that would suit you (replacement, discount, repair or withdrawal). Specify the cost of the postage you will claim back.
  4. Be sure to include your contact details at the end of the letter, your account number for the refund if applicable, and your signature.
  5. Attach a copy of the proof of purchase (invoice, receipt) in writing or electronically.

You can make a claim by letter, e-mail or telephone.

Tip: We have discussed how to deal with an unaccepted claim in our separate article.

What can you claim?

  • If the defect becomes apparent within 6 months after the purchase of the goods, the goods are deemed to have been defective from the start and you can claim a replacement for new goods. However, if the defect can be repaired without undue delay, you do not have such a claim.
  • In a situation where neither replacement nor easy repair is possible, you can decide whether to withdraw from the contract or claim a discount.
  • If the same defect reappears after repair, or if you claim 4 or more different defects on the same product, you are automatically entitled to either a replacement or a withdrawal and refund.

You must always indicate your preferred method of claim on the claim form.

When am I entitled to a refund for a claim?

You are only entitled to a refund in a few cases set out in the Consumer Protection Act. These are:

  • fundamental breach of contract,
  • expiry of the time limit – the seller fails to comply with the statutory time limit of 30 days,
  • third complaint in a row,
  • a defect that cannot be rectified and the defective goods cannot be replaced (end of production).

What if I want to exchange the goods for new ones?

The law states that the customer can only request a replacement of the goods in the event of a material breach of contract. This can be interpreted to mean that the goods do not perform their intended function at all and if the customer had known this beforehand, he would not have bought the goods in the first place.

Extension of the period of liability for defects

If you have been unable to use the goods for a period of time due to a claim, the total warranty period is extended by this period (for example, one month). The period of time from the time of the claim until the time of notification of the settlement of the claim is not included in the total period of statutory liability.

Attention! If the seller settles your claim by delivering new, faultless goods, the 24 months does not run again from this point. This is little known as the previous wording of the law allowed this option.

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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.

  • 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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