Buying Over the Internet in France

What are your consumer rights and remedies if you buy over the Internet in France? We take you through the main legal framework.

Placing the Order

If you wish to place an order on a French website, and you are not familiar with the supplier, then you need to check the mentions légales on the site. The link is normally located at the bottom of the opening page. The information on the mentions légales page should include the name and address of the company, together with their business registration number – called the Siret. If this information is not present, then you would probably be best advised not to order from the supplier. You can also check the validity of the registration number at infogreffe.fr. Type the first nine numbers of the Siret in the box 'Identification Number'. When you go to place the order make sure that the supplier has an [s] in their http(s) web address. This signals it is a secure payment site. There should also be a lock at the bottom of the browser window, or next to the address bar.


Table: Top Ten French Internet Sites
i. Ebay - Auctions
ii. Priceminster - Electronics
iii. La Redoute - Clothes
iv. Fnac - Electronics
v. Amazon - You Name it!
vi. Cdiscount - Electronics + Clothes
vii. Voyages-sncf.com - Travel
viii. 3 Suisses - Clothes
ix. Vente-privee.com - Clothes
x. Orange - Telcoms
Source: Fevad/Médiamétrie

Product Not Available

If you have ordered a product that the supplier then advises is not in stock, then you are entitled to cancel the order and receive a full refund. The supplier may offer you an equivalent product, but you are not obliged to accept their offer.

Incorrect Price

Once you have placed the order, the price shown on the e- mail confirmation of your order cannot be changed by the seller. If the seller has made an error in the price, which is to your benefit, they cannot change it, save where it is manifestly lower than their normal price. That is to say, where the court considers the price is ‘desirory’. In these circumstances, the seller has the right to cancel the contract. If the price on the e-mail confirmation is higher than that shown on the initial order then you need to e-mail or phone the supplier, and request either a correction of the price or cancellation of the order.

Seven Days Return

Once you have received the product, you have seven days, commencing the day after receipt of delivery, in which you can return it and receive a complete reimbursement. If the seventh day is a bank holiday or weekend, then it rolls over to the following day. This seven day ‘cooling-off period’ does not apply in relation to food products, journals and newspapers, holiday bookings, products made to measure. Neither does it apply to CDs, DVDs and computer software where the packaging has been removed. Whilst the 7 day period is the minimum in civil law, the supplier may offer a longer period, and they may also be willing to accept return in the case of those products listed above. There is no need to provide any reason for the return.

Product Guarantees

There are three types of guarantee that operate in relation to products you may have purchased. These guarantees also operate for mail order and shop purchases. First, there is the contractural guarantee offered by the supplier on the product itself. This guarantee may be superior to that in civil law. If it is inferior, then the civil law applies. Second, there is a two year civil law guarantee that the product should conform with what you think you ordered. If the product does not conform in some manner with what you ordered, or it does not work as it should, then you have a guarantee that runs for two years from the date of delivery. Within the first six months of delivery of the product the defect is presumed in law to have existed at the time you bought it. You have the option of a replacement product, repair of the item, or cancellation of the order and reimbursement of the sum paid. However, the choice of repair is subject to the cost to the seller not being disapportionate to the purchase price of the item. Otherwise a replacement product, or reimbursement can be offered by the seller. Neither is cancellation of the order and reimbursement of the sum paid available if the non-conformity is ‘minor’. Finally, there is also a guarantee in relation to hidden serious inherent defects in the product, called the garantie légale contre les vices cachés . If you find some defect in the product that you consider the seller was always aware, but not visible at the time of purchase, then you can claim on this guarantee. It runs for two years from the date you first discovered it, not when you first bought it. Needless to say, this is not a guarantee that is easy to enforce, and you would probably need to use specialist expertise to prove your claim. In effect, you are going to have to prove that the seller was aware, or should have been aware, of the defect when they sold it to you. If you dismantle the product with a view to trying to repair it, then you are likely to invalidate this legal guarantee.

After Sales Service

Internet suppliers are obliged to offer an after-sales service. This may be via e-mail, and/or by phone. The phone number cannot be a premium line number.

Reimbursement

The supplier has 30 days in which to reimburse you following your claim, after which you can claim interest on the outstanding sum, although you may need to go to court to enforce it! The level of the reimbursement includes the delivery charge paid, but does not include the cost of sending the product back to the seller, which is the responsibility of the buyer. The seller cannot oblige you to accept a credit for other goods with the company. You have the right to a cash refund.

Complaints System

If you have made an order over the internet with which you are not satisfied, and you failed to get an adequate response from the supplier, then your best course of action is probably to make a complaint to the Internet Ombudsman. The Médiateur Du Net dealt with over 4000 complaints last year, which they resolved to the satisfaction of complainants in 88% of the cases. In order to raise your case with them, all you need to do is complete the complaint form that is on their web site. By all accounts, they do seem to offer a good service. If you fail to resolve the problem through the Médiateur Du Net then you would need to place the dispute in front of a tribunal, either a juge de proximité for all claims below €4000, or a tribunal d'instance.


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