Ground Rules for Bargain Hunters around the Holidays Season

Christmas and Chanukah are coming closer every minute. Many of you will surely be hunting for presents up to the very last second. What precautions can you take when you wish to exchange the goodies because your child might not like the toy you chose for her? What if the item turns out to be defective? What if…?

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Exchanging

It came as it had to come, your kid did not like the item’s brand; it must be a “SoAndSo”. This, of course, has to be the more expensive brand with even less educational functions. Grand. So, now what? Returning sounds like a good idea. Is it possible? Exchanging bought articles for a different new one might be an even better idea but by a word of law “pacta sunt servanda (contracts must be honored)”. You have no statutory right to demand that bought things may be exchanged. So much for the law.

Since many businesses consider this situation as bad marketing, they give in to your wish to exchange (“umtauschen”). Some stores even let you get your money back. However, you have to play by the rules. These rules are simple. While each shop has its own rules, they basically always request you to prove the purchase with a cash register slip, the product’s condition must as new (better said “resalable”), and within a certain (short) time frame. Inside Germany, this period will often be “between the holidays” – the period between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Typically, the resalable condition will be me met when you return the item in its undamaged original package.

Defect Products

Many shops sell products with defects a little cheaper. As the reduction represents the lesser value, it is only square and fair to do so. They usually exclude such products from exchange. There is nothing to complain about or do against if you made the wrong purchase.

But what happens, when you buy a reduced product as a bargain, excluded from exchanging, which is defect? Can you not return the broken product to get a new one? As the sign in the shop read “No exchange (vom Umtausch ausgeschlossen)”. Of course, you can return the broken product. Even though the vendor has excluded exchanging, he may not deprive you of your statutory rights to receive a product without defects (§§280 ff. BGB).

Hint:

When making special, i.e. not standard, agreements make sure they are fixed in writing! This will ensure the ability to prove such an agreement. Do not rely on oral promises from any sales guy in a store! It was merely communicated that they will not remember it later. And don’t forget, you are customer no. x inside a very busy period…

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