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Unaccepted complaint – how to defend yourself?

Complaints are one of the most frequently exercised and most important consumer rights. What can’t the retailer ask you to do, how must it proceed and what should you do if a claim is not accepted? All these questions are answered below.

Žena, která si neví rady s neuznanou reklamací
12 minutes of reading

Chapters of the article

Until when can you make a complaint?

We often hear that customers are claiming goods because they are under warranty. However, this term is only used in the context of a voluntary guarantee for the quality of the goods. According to the Civil Code, sales in a shop are subject to the seller’s statutory liability for quality on acceptance and the consumer’s rights under defective performance.

  • Theguarantee for the quality of the goods = is voluntary, its length depends on the seller and represents a kind of guarantee that the item will retain its characteristics for a certain period of time. The guarantee of quality may be stated in the contract of sale, on the guarantee certificate, on the packaging or in the advertisement. However, the guarantee stated in the contract always prevails.
  • Statutory liability for quality = there is no doubt about it in the first 6 months, because the law works with a presumption of defectiveness of the goods on receipt. However, it still applies that if a defect appears within 24 months of receipt, you have the right to make a claim, which the seller must settle.

The time limits for exercising consumer rights only start from the date of delivery; in the case of a bricks-and-mortar shop, the date of purchase counts.

Tip: In case of purchase on the e-shop, you have the right to withdraw from the contract within 14 days without giving any reason.

How do I claim used or second-hand goods?

If you are buying used goods (whether it is a car or a washing machine), there is a 24-month period for defects and claims. However, the law allows you to reduce this period by up to half, i.e. 12 months. The reduced period of liability for defects must always be indicated on the proof of purchase.

Tip: If the seller had indicated a reduction to 6 months, this would not be taken into account. The period must always be a minimum of 12 months.

With second-hand goods, it is important to remember that the seller is never liable for obvious defects – only for hidden ones. When you order on an e-shop, it always depends on what is stated in the advert. Let’s explain this with an example:

  • You bought a phone in an online bazaar that was listed as fully functional. However, it came home with a cracked display that makes it impossible to use it fully. In this case, it is a material breach of contract = you can withdraw from the contract, ask for a repair or a discount. You cannot ask for a replacement.
  • If your phone arrives with a scratched cover, which does not affect its functionality, this is a non-substantial breach of contract. This depends on whether you were warned about the scratched cover beforehand. If not, you can ask for a repair or a discount.

The fastest way to get your money back for an unaccepted claim

Apre-suit notice written by a lawyer has a far greater psychological effect. In practice, most consumer disputes end up with her. We will assess your rejected claim, write a pre-action notice and send it to the seller within 3 days.

A defect has appeared in the goods within 24 months – how do I claim?

You can make a claim at the seller’s premises or at an authorised service centre listed on the warranty card. The place of claim is determined by the registration number or business name on the receipt. In the case of a network of stores managed by one company, you can claim the goods at any of their stores. The exception is franchises, which use the same logo and brand name, but in most cases they are different business entities.

What can you claim?

Here are a few options that determine what you are entitled to:

  • If the defect manifests itself within 6 months of the purchase of the goods, the goods are deemed to have been defective to begin with and you can claim for a replacement.
  • However, if the defect can be repaired without undue delay, you are not entitled to a replacement.
  • 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.

However, you are not always entitled to all of the above methods. You do not have the right to a replacement if you have bought the goods second-hand – at a lower price because of the defect complained of, if you are only complaining about part of the goods or if the goods you want are not available (for example, if they have sold out).

You can then withdraw from the contract and claim money if:

  • the defect cannot be rectified and the goods cannot be exchanged for new ones,
  • the defect makes it impossible to use the goods and thus there is a material breach of the purchase contract,
  • the same defect appears on the goods for the third time,
  • you are claiming 4 defects at the same time that prevent the proper use of the goods,
  • the seller fails to meet the deadline for handling the complaint.

By when does the seller have to settle your complaint?

The seller must first decide whether to accept the complaint. At this stage, he does not yet assess the defects, but focuses on the general requirements for the possibility of exercising rights under the defective performance. The seller usually decides whether to accept the claim immediately, but in more complex cases he has a deadline of 3 days. The 30-day period for dealing with the complaint then starts.

What is good to know about the 30-day claim period?

  • It is 30 calendar days. If the last day of the period is a weekend or a holiday, the time to process the claim is extended to the next business day.
  • The period starts from the day on which the seller is notified of the defect and thus the right of liability for defects in the goods sold is exercised = the day after you have notified the complaint in person or by phone or after you have received an e-mail or letter.
  • If the complaint is not settled within 30 days and the seller does not contact you, you automatically have the right to withdraw from the contract.

What should I do if the seller rejects the claim?

A rejected complaint is very common in practice. The most common reasons given by sellers are that the fault is not covered by the warranty because it was caused by improper handling, or that the fault has not manifested itself. In order to avoid the argument of non-manifestation of the defect, we recommend that you have the defect examined on site by a member of staff and make a note of this on the claim form.

It is important to know that the seller can only reject the defect on the grounds set out in the law:

  • You are complaining to a different trader than the one who sold you the goods.
  • You are complaining about defects that you knew about and were notified of when you entered into the contract.
  • The defect complained of was caused by your damage to the item or your failure to follow the manual.
  • You cannot claim for wear and tear caused by normal use. But, for example, excessive wear and tear to shoes or clothes over a very short period of time can be claimed. Here, however, it is preferable to use the services of an expert.
  • The seller is not liable for defects that occur after 24 months of receipt. You can make a complaint, but you will have to prove that the defects occurred before this period.

Tip: The seller is not entitled to claim the costs of the complaint.

Zamítnutí reklamace u oblečení

What if you disagree with the rejection of a claim?

There are several situations and thus several solutions. In cases where you have resolved the complaint with the repair shop, you have the option of contacting the seller directly to resolve the dispute.

If the seller disputes the nature of the defect, the most effective help may be the opinion of an impartial expert in the field. In the first 6 months, you are at an advantage. It is presumed that the goods were defective to begin with, and so the seller must prove that this was not the case – it is not enough for them to say so. If there were to be a court settlement, he would have to provide proof or he would lose the dispute.

After 6 months of use, the burden of proving that the reason for rejecting the claim was wrong will be on you. By using an expert opinion, you can strengthen the evidential position, which will ultimately force the seller to additionally acknowledge the claim. It is worth knowing that the cost of the report is usually covered by the costs of the claim and you are entitled to claim reimbursement from the seller.

Often sellers will also dispute that the claim was not made in time. In this case, the best solution is to contact a lawyer or consumer organisation.

Out-of-court settlement of an unrecognised complaint – what the CCI can help you with

Since 1 February 2016, theCzech Trade Inspection Authority has not only acted as a supervisory authority, but also as an out-of-court dispute resolution body. This is a free form of dispute resolution, which should be faster than traditional court proceedings, and is mainly in writing. The application can be submitted simply by filling in the form on the CTIA website.

Theapplication must always be accompanied by evidence of the fact that you have not been able to resolve the dispute directly with the trader, as well as other documents proving the facts you claim.

Most often these are:

  • a copy of the receipt,
  • the order confirmation for the goods,
  • a copy of the complaint report,
  • a copy of the report on the settlement or rejection of the complaint,
  • evidence of further communication regarding the complaint.

However, the disadvantage of out-of-court dispute resolution is the fact that the seller cannot be forced to reach an agreement and performance is based on voluntariness. The result is a written or verbal agreement between the consumer and the seller, but if the seller fails to comply in part or in full, you have no choice but to go to court.

In this case, the CTIA has no power to enforce compliance with the agreement.

Pre-action notice to reject a complaint and possible court settlement

The next step is a written pre-action notice to seek redress. The pre-action notice should also state that, in the event of litigation, you will be claiming, among other things, the cost of an expert’s report as well as other costs related to the claim, including legal costs.

We recommend that you always consult a lawyer before filing a claim to ensure that the law is on your side.

Tip: Read this article on when and how to file a pre-suit notice.

What about the judicial resolution of consumer disputes?

It should be added that most consumer disputes are so-called trivial disputes, where the amounts involved are up to CZK 10,000. In these cases, it is not possible to appeal against the court’s decision, only to file a constitutional complaint. The Constitutional Court, however, is extremely restrained in its current case law and takes the categorical view that the mere trivial amount of the dispute is not capable of achieving the intensity of a violation of fundamental rights and freedoms, with few exceptions.

It is therefore necessary to prepare and send all the arguments to the Court of First Instance. Nevertheless, the decision may not be fair, even on the issue of costs, because the court may not award everything that has been put into the trial.

Beware of slandering a seller on the internet because of an unacknowledged claim

Some customers resort to threatening a shop with a fake review on the internet if their complaint is not acknowledged. However, by doing so, they could cause themselves a lot of trouble.

“Slander posted on Facebook or Twitter can also be a criminal offence punishable by up to two years’ imprisonment.” Ondřej Preuss, Accessible Advocate

If you have spread false information about the seller and thereby endangered his business, he may subsequently seek an apology and compensation for damages. It also depends on the intensity of the defamation, the position of the person concerned or the number of people who saw the defamation. Even if the intensity of the defamation is not enough to be considered a criminal offence, it could be a misdemeanour, which carries a hefty fine.

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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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