MAKING A CLAIM: SELECT CONSUMER RIGHTS
The vendor is required to duly inform consumers about the scope, terms and conditions of liability for defective products and services. This includes the terms and condition when a discrepancy with the contract (hereinafter referred to as a claim) occurs along with information about where to submit a claim and the process of warranty repairs (Section 13, Act No. 634/1992 Coll.).
Solely the vendor is responsible to the consumer for defects. He is obliged to accept the claim for defective goods. Often the consumer addresses the defect with the manufacturer, importer, or repair shop, none of which have responsibility for the defective item. These entities are not required to process the claim, even if the vendor refers the buyer to them. These entities may voluntarily process the claim, however, the consumer has no right to demand this of them.
The only exception is the situation governed by Section 625 of Act No. 40/1964 Coll. of the Civil Code, whereby the vendor designates, on the warranty, another entity to be responsible for repairs instead of the vendor (Warranty Service). The consumer is then obliged to use the warranty service designated in this way to have the item repaired at the location specified by the warranty as long as this location is at the point of sale (vendor’s location) or is closer to the consumer than the point of sale. This means that if the warranty service location is farther than the point of sale for the consumer, the warranty claim can be made with the vendor, rather than in the warranty service. It should be noted, however, that the warranty service is intended only for the repair of defective items. Other legitimate claims (i.e. defective product replacements or returns) can only be made with the vendor (at any of the vendor’s locations).
If a third party warranty service is not specified, then according to Section 19 of Act No. 634/1992 Coll., the vendor must accept a claim at any of its locations where the acceptance of such claim is possible: i.e. where the items are regularly sold or such service is provided, including the vendor’s offices. Thus if a consumer purchases merchandise from a retail chain, which has several locations in the Czech Republic, the consumer can claim defects in any of the chain’s locations as long as that location carries a similar product range. The consumer does not necessarily have to return to the exact store where the merchandise was purchased. Such locations must have on-hand an employee who can process claims, during the entire business hours.
The vendor, or a person authorized by the vendor, must resolve the complaint immediately unless it is a complex case. In complex situations, a resolution must be made within three working days. This period does not include the reasonable time needed, based on the type of product or service, for a professional assessment of the defect. Claims, including the removal of defects must be handled without undue delay, within 30 days from the date of the claim, unless the vendor and consumer agree to a longer period. After the expiration of this period, the consumer has the same rights as if the purchased product had a defect which cannot be removed (the defect is considered to be objectively irremovable) according to Section 19 of Act No. 634/1992 Coll.
HOW TO MAKE WARRANTY CLAIMS
Because of possible subsequent litigation, a claim should be submitted in writing, that is, the consumer should insist on written confirmation or registration of the claim, if the vendor does not do it automatically. It is always necessary to state the basis of the claim, i.e. the defect, that the buyer is complaining about and which legal right the buyer is invoking.
The vendor is obliged to issue the consumer a receipt stating when the consumer applied his/her right, what is the substance of the claim, and what resolution of the claim the consumer demands. Later, the vendor must issue a confirmation of when and how the claim was settled, including how the item was repaired and how long it took, or supply a written justification for the rejection of the claim. This same obligation applies to any other individuals or entities designated to repair the item.
LIABILITY FOR DEFECTIVE PRODUCTS SOLD BY AN ENTREPRENEUR: CONSUMER RIGHTS
Civil Code legislation distinguishes between the liability for defects in a product at the time of purchase (violation of the purchase agreement under Section 616), and the responsibility for defects that, as a violation of the purchase agreement, is covered under the warranty period (applies to the statutory warranty for quality in accordance with Section 619 et seq.). In contrast, the statutory warranty does not apply for perishable items and used goods.
According to Section 616, Paragraph 3 (the purchased product does not comply with the purchase agreement – a violation of the agreement), the purchaser has the right to demand that the vendor, at no cost to the consumer and without undue delay, correct the problem as stated in the agreement. This can be done either by exchanging the product or repairing it. If this is not possible, the purchaser may demand a discount or he may withdraw from the agreement. This is not applicable if the purchaser knew of the breach before purchasing the product, or if purchaser caused the breach.
In the case of the statutory warranty, in Section 622 the Civil Code differentiates various consumer rights depending on whether the defect can be fixed or not. With irreparable defects the Code differentiates whether the defect does or does not hinder with the proper use of the item:
- According to Section 622, Paragraph 1, in the case of a defect that can be removed, the purchaser has the right for it to be properly removed, in a timely manner, and at no cost to him. The vendor is required to remove the defect without undue delay. Given the defect, if it is not unreasonable, the purchaser may demand for the product to be exchanged, or if only a component is damaged then for the component to be exchanged. If this is not possible, the purchaser may request a reasonable discount or withdraw from the contract altogether.
- According to Section 622, Paragraph 2, in the case of a defect that cannot be removed and that prevents the product being used as intended if it were defect-free, the purchaser has the right to exchange the item or has the right to withdraw from the contract. The purchaser has the same right if the defects can be removed, but the purchaser is still unable to use the product properly due to a re-occurrence of the defect or due to a greater number of defects.
- According to Section 622, Paragraph 3, in the case of other defects which cannot be removed and the purchaser does not want to exchange the product, he has the right to a reasonable discount or he can withdraw from the contract.
- In the case of either discounted or used items, instead of an exchange, the purchaser can only require a discount, as set forth in Section 624: “If the product being sold at a discount or the used item has a defect, for which the vendor is responsible, the purchaser has the right to an appropriate discount instead of the right to exchange the product.”
It is then necessary to distinguish between a statutory warranty for quality and a contractual warranty provided by the vendor above and beyond what the law stipulates (Section 620, Paragraph 5). In such a case, consumer needs will drive the substance of the contractual warranty which then does not have to correspond with the aforementioned legislation.
COMPETENCE OF THE CZECH TRADE INSPECTION AUTHORITY
It should be noted that under the Civil Code, the Czech Trade Inspection Authority cannot enforce the Code’s provisions. The Civil Code is not regarded as a special law in the sense of Section 2 of Act No. 64/1986 Coll. This is a case of private rights legislation regulating a civic rights relationship, where each party has equal status, as opposed to public rights relationships, characterized by the parties being typically influenced by government organizations. In this instance, the Czech Trade Inspection Authority affects behaviour that is contrary to Act No. 634/1992 Coll., namely the failure to comply with provisions of Sections 13 and 19, which control, from a formal perspective, the claims process.
If, however, the consumer is dissatisfied with the settlement of the claim in terms of its content, i.e. a refusal to honour the warranty, or possibly an unsatisfactory result of a warranty that was accepted, then this is classified as a civil dispute which can only be resolved in court or by an arbitrator chosen by both parties.