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Shopping in France: The consumer rights you should know about

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The Local/AFP - [email protected]
Shopping in France: The consumer rights you should know about
Photo: Frank Perry, AFP

With Christmas shopping season upon us and the sales around the corner it's worth knowing your consumer rights in France just in case you pick up some faulty gifts and want a refund. Here's a rundown of what you need to know.


France has its fair share of beautiful boutiques and tantalising shops and with Christmas just around the corner, we're heading into one of the busiest shopping times of the year.
But as you browse around for gifts, it's good to know your consumers rights and what the law provides for in France when something goes wrong. 
Knowing your basic consumer rights is important as it will help you know what you're entitled to - even if a shopkeeper tells you otherwise - and cope with any problems that arise when you buy something.
Here are the key points to be aware of when you're shopping in France.
Consumer rights in the country are determined by a number of laws sellers are bound by but also by rules set by the sellers, which are more flexible as they're not legally binding.
Your rights on refunds, returns and exchanges
The first thing to have in mind when you buy something is that shops in France are under no obligation to give you a refund if you want to return an item - providing that item isn't faulty.
You do however have the right to exchange it for something else and some shops will give you a credit note or refund, but it is up to the seller to decide and under what terms.
There is no set returns period if you purchase your item directly from a shop (although it's usually one month).
However, if you have bought something online, over the phone or by post, you have the right to cancel your order within 14 working days of receiving the item and you don't have to give a reason for doing so and won't get a penalty. You're entitled to a refund within 14 days, although you may have to pay the postage costs of shipping goods back to the seller.
Many shops however do let their customers exchange or return items (repris ou échangé). Always check what the shop's policy is before you buy (either by asking directly or by looking at the price tag).
You may come across the terms ni repris, ni échangé, ni remboursé (no returns, no exchanges and no refunds) on an item's price tag but don't let it put you off. This is definitely illegal and you should let the seller know if this affects you.
Whatever the shop's policy, consumers must be made aware of it before buying something.
Dealing with faulty items
When it comes to faulty items however, consumers are well protected by a set of clearly defined rules. 
If you buy anything that has a defect, the law stipulates that the seller is liable for two years after it was bought and that the item must be repaired or replaced within that time. 
The consumer has the right to either choose to keep the purchased item, get a partial refund or to get a total refund if the item is returned. The consumer does not have to justify any of those decisions.
If you have bought an item which had a defect that wasn't visible when you bought it (known as vice caché in French) and that renders it unusable, the seller must give you a total refund or a partial one if you choose to keep it. This has to be within a two-year period from when you discovered the defect and there is a five year time limit on this right.
If a product is faulty and has caused injury or damaged something, then the seller must exchange or refund it within the next 30 days. The consumer doesn't have to prove the problem existed when the item was bought.
Another situation is if a product you have bought in the shop or online does not correspond to what the seller's description of it was (for example if the colour is different, or it doesn't look the same as the item you ordered, or it can't be used for what it was intended for).
Under what is called the garantie légale de conformité, you have two years from the time you took possession of that product to get a replacement or have the item repaired. For a second-hand item, this time period is 6 months. 
Your consumer rights also apply during the sales, which in France happen twice a year with the next ones coming up after Christmas and running from January 8th to February 4th - two weeks shorter than normal.
During Les Soldes, reduced and non-reduced items must be made clearly visible to the consumer, and the pricing details should appear clearly on the label. The previous non-sale price must be crossed out, the new price and the total discount amount added.
Below are other points that are useful to know: 
  • As a general rule, shops must ensure they display the prices of their goods properly, both in shops and online. Most prices include a value-added tax of 20 percent.
  • If you want to pay for goods in cash, shops are limited to €3000. 
  • And as a general rule, always keep packaging and receipts. This will make it easier to assert your rights if something goes wrong. 



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Anonymous 2018/12/13 21:16
I needed to purchase a few kitchen cupboards from LeRoy Merlin, so I went in and explained to the person what I required and he wrote up the order - which was going to be ready for collection in approx. 10 days. When I got home I noticed that he added an extra piece that I didn't require (it was a side panel that I didn't need).<br />So when I went to collect the kitchen cupboards I mentioned to them that I didn't need the side panel and requested a refund. The invoice stated ni repris, ni échangé, ni remboursé, and I was categorically told that I was unable to return, exchange it or have a refund. I wasn't aware this is illegal? So I paid for the item (115 euros) and left. Where does it state that it's illegal, please? I may be able to get my money back...
Anonymous 2018/12/13 18:23
Try explaining this to Amazon France who wash their hands of anything after 30 days. No amount of talking to them changed their view that my faulty item had to be discussed with the maker!!! Who, by the way, were brilliant!!

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