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EXPLAINED: How to get a refund on faulty goods in France

EXPLAINED: How to get a refund on faulty goods in France
Even goods bought in the sale are covered by legal protections. Photo: Sameer Al Doumy/AFP
Getting a refund for faulty purchases can be difficult in France, so it’s important to know your legal rights.

The garantie légale de conformité (legal guarantee of conformity) exists to protect consumers from faulty or mislabelled products. It concerns hidden defects which exist prior to purchase, or which occur during delivery and installation, and it applies in addition to any extra commercial guarantee that certain companies choose to offer. 

The garantie légale de conformité applies to both new and pre-used products, including cars, furniture and electronic items.

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According to the regulation, sellers are required to adequately and accurately inform buyers about their products and their intended use. If the product does not comply with this information – whether due to a manufacturing fault or an inaccurate sales claim – the buyer has the right to claim a functional replacement or full reimbursement.

Specifically, you are entitled to make a claim according to the garantie légale de conformité in the following cases:

  • If the defect existed prior to purchase,

  • If the defect resulted from the packaging or assembly instructions,

  • If the defect was created during an installation carried out or supervised by the seller. 

For new products, you have up to 2 years after receiving the item to apply the garantie légale de conformité. For pre-used or second-hand products, this is reduced to 6 months.

The appeal process is free, and involves reporting and returning the product directly to the seller, or giving the seller notice by post – ideally through a lettre recommandée (registered mail). 

You will need to show proof of purchase, such as a receipt or delivery notice. 

If your appeal is successful, you may seek reparation or replacement of a product which does not comply with its specification. You also have the right to claim a full reimbursement if you return the product, or a partial reimbursement if you choose to keep the product.

You may also seek damages if you can prove that the fault has negatively impacted you financially, for example if a washing machine fault means you have to pay to use a laundromat. 

What if I ordered the product online?

The same garantie légale de conformité applies, whether you bought the product in a store or online. 

Note, however, that when you order something online or by mail in France, you have a 14-day cooling-off period (délai de rétractation) in which you may seek a full refund, whatever the reason.

If you receive a faulty product and seek a replacement using the garantie légale de conformité, the 14-day cooling off period will officially begin again once the replacement is delivered. 

What about if I bought the item on sale? 

Although some retailers might try to say otherwise, any product bought on sale remains subject to normal exchange and refund policies. 

So, if someone tries to tell you les articles soldés ne sont ni repris ni échangés (the articles on sale cannot be returned or exchanged) you should ignore them and point out your legal rights.

In case of any hidden defect, a store is required to refund or exchange the product. 

If, however, you simply changed your mind or bought the wrong size, retailers aren’t obliged to take the product back or allow you to exchange it, although many of them will. 

Conversely, if you buy something by mail order or online, you have the right to send it back within 14 days, whatever the reason, and the retailer is obliged to refund the money. This applies both to full-price and on sale items.


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