Customers have many rights when shopping, but they also have to consider various things in order for them to get their rights. © imago/Symbolic image
Whether shopping in-store or online, the customer's rights when shopping are not always entirely clear. Two lawyers explain what to look out for.
Munich – Some things are so much a part of our everyday lives that we don't even think about them. Shopping is one of them. In fact, however, there are some legal pitfalls and traps that you should be aware of when shopping in the supermarket, at the bakery, in the clothing store or even in the online shop. On the other hand, customers also have rights that they may not even know about.
IPPEN. MEDIA spoke with two lawyers from the Bavarian Consumer Advice Centre, Tatjana Halm and Julia Zeller, and clarified the most important legal issues relating to shopping – from scarce goods to an incorrect invoice and exchange.
Your rights when shopping: Stores are allowed to set their own conditions
Is it true that you can always return or exchange purchased products within 14 days?
"No, that's not quite true. You have to differentiate here," says Tatjana Halm, a lawyer at the Bavarian Consumer Center. When shopping online, for example, you can easily return the goods within 14 days. The so-called right of withdrawal applies here, because you cannot check the goods beforehand when buying on the Internet.
The same applies to door-to-door purchases in order to be protected from being taken by surprise. "In business, on the other hand, the exchange is purely a gesture of goodwill on the part of the seller. As a customer, you can't insist on that." The store is also allowed to set its own conditions – for example, whether you get your money back when you exchange it or just a voucher.
What if my goods are defective?
Tatjana Halm clarifies that the buyer then has "warranty rights". Consumers could either have the device repaired or replaced with a new one. "The seller is legally obliged to do so for two years after the purchase."
Do I absolutely need the original packaging when exchanging?
Do I have to use the original packaging for the exchange?
Here, too, it depends on where you shop, says Halm. "In the shop, the dealer is not obliged to exchange – and can also insist on the original packaging." In the case of online shopping, the merchant may not refuse to take back the goods, even without the original packaging (right of withdrawal). In order for the consumer to be able to try out the product, he must inevitably unpack it. He has 14 days after receiving the goods for an exchange.
Tatjana Halm, lawyer. © Sleep
If the price at the checkout is different from that at the shelf, what applies here?
"Unfortunately, this is a common problem, as prices in the supermarket change frequently. Then it can happen that the goods on the shelf are incorrectly marked. In fact, however, the price at the checkout always applies," explains Tatjana Halm. However, the customer does not have to accept the possibly higher price at the checkout and can return the goods. "Unfortunately, you don't have a claim to the lower price from the shelf or brochure."
What happens if I break a product in the supermarket, such as dropping a yoghurt jar?
"Then I have to pay for the damage from a purely legal point of view," explains Julia Zeller, a lawyer at the Bavarian Consumer Center. As a rule, however, the store managers or employees are accommodating and turn a blind eye to a low value of goods. "But if I throw down a TV in the electronics store due to carelessness, it can look different ..." However, if the retailer has set up the goods improperly – such as the TV on a wobbly cardboard structure – and you can prove this, you theoretically do not have to be liable, explains Zeller.
Customers' rights when shopping: Do I have to leave immediately when the store closes?
Can I return the goods if they are spoiled?
Who doesn't know that? You unpack the strawberries at home and notice that the fruits below are moldy. "Strictly speaking, this is where liability for defects applies," says Zeller. "But I have to prove that I stored the food properly and in this case I didn't cause the mold myself. That's why my tip is that it's best to return the goods immediately after shopping and not just a day or two later."
Can a store kick me out at closing time if I haven't finished shopping or paying yet?
The answer is clear, according to lawyer Zeller: "Every shop has a domiciliary right and can ask the customer to leave the shop at any time."
Expert Julia Zeller. © Consumer Advice Centre Bavaria
If I discover on the receipt at home that too much has been charged – what can I do?
"For example, if the customer only bought one detergent, but two were charged," says Zeller, "they have to prove that they only bought one – and that's difficult in practice." That's why she advises you to always check the receipt on the spot. "The situation is different in the case of a calculation error that is clearly documented on the receipt: Then the difference must be reimbursed."
If, for example, I pay with a ten-euro bill in the bakery, but the seller only gives me a five-euro bill – what rights do I have? Unfortunately, the burden of proof lies with the customer, explains expert Zeller. "For example, the customer behind you can help, who can act as a witness." Otherwise, the customer would have been out of luck if the seller insisted that they had only given a five-euro bill. If necessary, a cash register could be considered here in order to see what difference the cash register has.
What happens if I try on clothes at home and get dirty or damaged, but want to return them?
Since a shop does not have to take back a product from a legal point of view anyway (see above), it certainly does not have to do so if the goods are damaged or soiled, says Julia Zeller. The situation is different with online shopping, where the company has to take back the goods within 14 days. "However, it can demand compensation for cleaning or repairs – even if the customer cuts off the label, by the way!"
Can stores film me shopping?
"Yes," says Zeller. "However, for data protection reasons, video surveillance must be pointed out at the entrance, for example by means of a sticker. However, filming is not allowed in changing rooms."