Asking around released a flood of shopping woes from both Czechs and expats. Of the stories told, the following probably illustrates what many see as a very unfair system. A colleague purchased a pair of winter boots. After leaving the shop, he sat down to inspect his new purchase and discovered the stitching had come loose. Though he’d missed the fault in the store, he thought himself lucky to still be near the shop and rushed back with the boots. Back at the store he was told the boots would be repaired and he would have to wait a month, even though there were other boots with which the defective pair could be exchanged.
This example seemed like a good test case to run by lawyers with expertise in commercial law. Vladimíra Pajerová from Pajerová and Šnajrová explained that the defect should be repaired in thirty days. If it is not repaired in thirty days and it seems to be unrepairable good, they have to exchange it.
Mrs. Pajerová also pointed out that if the repair is not completed in thirty days the defect is deemed ‘irreparable’ and the consumer is entitled to exchange the goods.
The rub, however, is that the vendor determines whether the good is faulty or not. The decision should be made immediately unless it is complicated, in which case they have up to 3 days.
In the case of my frustrated colleague, the only hope was the goodwill of the retailer. Whether or not an item should be replaced immediately is voluntary. A retailer is not bound be law to do, but one could argue that it makes good business sense to do so.
We also ran some common misconceptions about consumer complaints by Mrs. Pajerová. These were that the goods must be in the original packaging, the manufacturer is responsible for complaints, items on sale are not covered, and consumers must meet the difference of any price increases. In all cases, she answered that these were not true.
It is preferred that the goods are returned in the original packaging, but it is not required. The only requirement is that all the parts are returned.
Richard Turoň from Rutland Ježek offered further information on the claim process. Within the first six months the consumer is entitled to remedy the problem in two ways. He/she can either have the good repaired or he/she can have the good exchanged. If neither solution is possible the consumer can either request a discount or refund.
After the six months have elapsed (but not before the full warranty period) the consumer can request the goods be repaired. If they cannot be repaired can he/she can request replacement. If neither are possible the consumer can request refund or a discount. In other words, in the first six months the consumer is entitled to replace the goods.
The full warranty period is, by law, a mandatory two-year period for consumer goods. However, retailers and manufacturers are permitted to extend the warranty. Some cars, for example, have a five year warranty. When the warranty exceeds this mandatory period, it must be “expressly stated in the warranty certificate.”
Mr Aujezdský from eAdvokacie elaborated on these points. He said that consumers should be informed of the warranty period as well as your other rights. For example they should provide you with information where to take faulty goods.
He also explained that the law regarding repairs and exchange is a little complicated. Many people have no doubt been told to wait thirty days when returning goods for repair or replacement. The reality according to Mr Aujezdský is not so cut and dry
“The law states that retailers should do it without undue delay, at latest within thirty days of the claim.”
Once the faulty item has been returned for repair, it is up to the purchaser to check on the status. The vendor has the obligation to complete the repairs in thirty days. However, they don’t have an obligation to inform the purchaser that the repair has been carried out. In the event the claim was justified, the vendor must cover the cost of the postage.
The situation for consumers is not entirely dire. While shopping in physical stores may test one’s patience, Internet and telephone shopping is balanced more toward the consumer.
One right you have, which you don’t if you buy from a physical shop, is the right to return the goods within 14 days of delivery for whatever reason even if the package has been opened. By returning the consumer is opting out of the purchasing agreement with the provider. This right even applies if the good is defective. Moreover, this right is recognized by members of the European Union because the mandatory rights of the country where the consumer is apply. This is right of return is one such right. In this instance the consumer incurs the cost of the postage because he/she is opting out of the purchasing agreement.
All the lawyers we spoke to mentioned a number of organizations people can contact when they feel their consumer rights have been undermined. One organization mentioned often is Sdružení obrany spotřebitelů (Consumer Protection Association) or SOS. Sadly, at the time of writing no one from SOS was available for comment.
There is also the government body Česká Obchodní Inspekce (Czech Commercial Inspection). We contacted them and there spokesperson said that if consumers feel their rights have been violated they should contact them either by phone, email, or electronic submission office (e-podatelna). See their website for contact details.
Admittedly, compared to many other nations, the situation is not easy. Perhaps the only hope for improvement is a combination of good business sense from vendors and tenacity from the consumers.
Write in below and tell us your experiences, good or bad, of lodging claims for repairs, exchanges, and refunds in the Czech Republic.