A consumer may withdraw from a distance purchase within 14 days without giving any reason. An exception to this is that the returned product is permanently unsuitable. This means, it is impossible or very difficult to render the product suitable for sale again. This exception must be interpreted restrictively.
Products can be sent back when the packaging has been opened. The opening of the packaging must be necessary for testing the product. Only if a product cannot be resold, or is difficult to resell, this is not allowed. However, this is not easily accepted by the courts.
Within the European Union consumers have a right of withdrawal. This means, within a period of 14 days the consumer is allowed to revoke a distance contract and return a product without giving any reason. The reason is that in the event of an online purchase the consumer cannot physically see or check the products in advance.
This gives the consumer the opportunity to check or inspect a purchased product. This must be necessary however to check the nature, characteristics and functioning of the product. The consumer may check or inspect only in the same way he would be allowed in a physical shop. You can try on a garment but you are not allowed wear it for a long time. The products must also be inspected with due care.
There are exceptions to this right of withdrawal. This concerns, for instance:
Another important exception concerns products which, for health reasons, may not be returned after breaking of the seal. For these products, it is impossible or very difficult for a seller to ensure that they can be resold. Think for instance of underwear and toothbrushes.
A recent ruling stipulates that a mattress can be returned even if the packaging has been opened. It is not unhygienic to sell a used mattress. After all, mattresses are used by hotel guests, there is a market for second-hand mattresses, and used mattresses can be thoroughly cleaned.
A mattress can be compared to a garment. It is almost impossible to test a product without physical contact. It is assumed that a seller can make these products suitable for re-sale by means of cleaning or disinfection. These are starting points to assess whether a product is definitively unsuitable.
The consumer is liable for the reduction in value of a product if he has treated the product differently from what was necessary to check it. However, even in the event of a reduction in value, the consumer retains his right of withdrawal.
Would you like to know more about your rights and obligations as an online seller? Or do you want to know more about consumer law? Please contact us:
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