Legal warranty on consumer goods: rights of the consumer.
What is a legal warranty of conformity?
The legal warranty of conformity is foreseen by the Consumer Code (Sections 128 et seq.), and protects the consumer when purchasing defective products, products that work poorly or products that do not respond to the use stated by the seller or to that which the good is generally intended.
Against whom can it be enforced?
Consumers may assert their rights with regard to the legal warranty of conformity by directly contacting the seller of the goods, even if different from the producer.
Content of the legal warranty
In the presence of inherent defects, the consumer is entitled to decide whether to have the defective product repaired or replaced by the seller, without charge, unless the remedy requested is impossible or disproportionate to the other. If the product cannot be replaced or repaired, the consumer is still entitled to a price reduction or to receive a sum, adapted to the value of the product, upon returning the defective product to the seller.
Term of warranty
The legal warranty lasts two years from delivery of the goods and must be enforced by the consumer within two months from discovery of the defect. Therefore, proof of purchase should always be kept (full receipt or till receipt, which should be photocopied, since the thermal paper used for receipts may fade with time). The clauses in contracts, or general conditions of contracts for consumers, written up by professionals that restrict the term of the legal warranty or exclude it, can constitute unfair terms under Section 33, paragraph 2, letter b) of the Consumer Code.
Obligations of the Seller
The seller must:
- take back the defective product to verify whether the defect is an inherent defect. In particular: (i) for defects occurring in the first six months from the date of delivery of the product, the inspection is always paid by the seller, since it is presumed that it existed at the time of delivery; (ii) thereafter, only if the defect is not an inherent defect may the consumer be asked to repay the cost – reasonably and previously indicated – that the seller incurred for the inspection;
- once the inherent defect has been detected, the product must be repaired or replaced within a reasonable time from the request and without any charge to the consumer.
Difference between legal warranties and conventional warranties
Conventional or contractual warranties, whether free or paid for, offered by the manufacturer or retailer, do not replace nor limit the legal warranty, compared to which they may instead follow different measures and/or terms. Those offering conventional warranties must, however, always specify that these warranties are different and supplementary to legal warranties of conformity, which protect consumers.
Powers of intervention of the Antitrust Authority
The behavior of retailers or manufacturers that mislead consumers with regard to the existence or the methods of exercising their legal rights under a legal warranty of conformity, meaning they impede consumers from exercising these rights, can constitute unfair sales practices that are prohibited and penalized by the Consumer Code. In this case, the Antitrust Authority may intervene to protect the consumer by verifying the existence of the violation, imposing the cessation of the conduct considered contrary to the law, and punishing those responsible for up to a maximum of Euros 5,000,000. The Antitrust Authority may also assess the obligations of the company, without establishing an infringement, if these have a positive impact on consumers. It cannot, however, resolve individual disputes. Furthermore, the Antitrust Authority can ascertain the unfair nature of the clauses included in contracts or general conditions of contract between professionals and consumers that limit the duration of the legal warranty of conformity or exclude it altogether, by arranging for measures to be adopted for informing consumers in a proper manner.