Strengthened Consumer Protection Under EU Law: Do You Know Your Rights?

MK
Michael Kyprianou Law Firm

Contributor

The firm, based in Cyprus, has an international presence. Its services include Dispute Resolution, Property, Shipping, Immigration, Commercial and Corporate Law. It is highly ranked by leading legal directories, including Legal500 and Chambers and regularly receives accolades from the Cyprus Government and international bodies, in recognition of its excellent service and commitment to the values of integrity, efficiency and professionalism.
The consumer-seller relationship is undoubtedly one of the most significant relationships created by contract. Consumers are provided with substantial possibilities for legal redress...
Cyprus Consumer Protection
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The consumer-seller relationship is undoubtedly one of the most significant relationships created by contract. Consumers are provided with substantial possibilities for legal redress in case of potential inadequacies present in the contract's object, that is, the purchased goods.

As of 1st of January 2022, the European Union set in force new legal directions concerning sale of goods contracts through the EU Directive 2019/771 (On Certain Aspects Concerning Contracts for the Sale of Goods) (hereinafter ''the EU Directive''). These enlarge the scope of consumer protection by adding additional specific provisions governing the standards which goods shall have and the grounds for legal redress available to consumers against sellers, in cases where the good they have purchased does not conform with the standards set out in the contract of sale.

As set out in the aforementioned EU Directive, to conform with the contract of sale the goods shall:

  • Be of the description, type, quantity and quality set out in the contract and which is normal for goods of the same type, and which may be reasonably expected by the consumer considering the goods' nature, and where this applies, correspond to the sample displayed to the consumer.
  • Have features such as functionality, durability and security as these are set out in the contract, and which are normal for goods of the same type, and which may be reasonably expected by the consumer considering their nature and any public statement undertaken by/on behalf of the producer and/or seller especially in advertising or on labelling.
  • Be fit for any purpose for which the consumer purchased them and be fit for the purposes for which goods of the same type would normally be used.

However, if at the time of finalising the contract the seller informed the consumer that a specific feature of the goods did not meet the above criteria as other goods of the same type, and the consumer expressly accepted this, then there should be no lack of the goods' conformity with the contract.

The Certain Aspects Concerning Contracts for the Sale of Goods Law of 2021 (Law 154(I)/2021) has transposed the EU Directive into national law in Cyprus (hereinafter "the Law").

The EU Directive and the Law provide potential solutions to consumers finding themselves in a situation where their goods do not meet the standards set out in the contract of sale:

  1. Repair or Replacement
    Consumers have the right to choose between free repair and replacement. These options are the most convenient resort to remedying faulty goods, except where one of the two is unobtainable or would inflict disproportionate costs on the seller in comparison to the other option. Still, even in such cases, there is a need to assess which of the two remedies could be provided to the consumer with the least inconvenience to him/her. Indeed, there are specific requirements in place in regard to this. That is, for repair and replacement to be undertaken for free, within a reasonable period of time, and without causing any significant inconvenience to the consumer considering the goods' nature and the purpose for which the consumer purchased them. The definition of "reasonable" time for the completion of repair or replacement refers to the shortest possible time required. The Cypriot law specifically sets this at a maximum of 25 days from the day of notice given by the consumer to the seller, further adding that the consumer's express consent is necessary where this timeframe needs to be extended.
  2. Price reduction or contract termination
    Consumers are entitled to either:
    1. a reduction of the price of the goods proportionate to the decrease of their value given their fault(s) set against the value which they would have if they were as set out in the contract of sale, or
    2. to contract termination whereby the goods are returned to the seller (at his/her expense) and the price paid for them is reimbursed to the consumer.

Consumers are entitled to either one of the two aforementioned remedies (except where the seller proves that the goods' fault(s) is minor, whereby the consumer is not entitled to contract termination) in a number of situations. The most noteworthy of these are: where repair or replacement has not been completed or will not be completed within a reasonable time (that is, 25 days in Cyprus), or it will not be undertaken without causing considerable inconvenience to the consumer, or there still are faults on the goods following repair or replacement, or where the seller has refused to repair or replace the goods because, for instance,.these were not attainable options.

Indeed, consumers who have suffered financial detriment as a result of the goods' non-conformity with the contract of sale and/or non-satisfactory remedies, have a legal right to file a court action for compensation and/or for any of the four aforementioned remedies, and/or for any other reasonable claim as remedy.

Effectively, sellers' liability for the goods' faults and their obligation to provide the above remedies to consumers constitute a legal guarantee to the benefit of consumers which in Cyprus, as set out by the EU, lasts for two years from the date of the goods' delivery. However, to benefit from such protection the consumer is obliged to notify the seller as to the goods' non-conformity within two months from the date on which this was noticed. Nonetheless, the two-year guarantee timeframe is the minimum guarantee period since, according to the Cypriot law, time spent on efforts undertaken for restoration of the goods and/or related negotiations between the seller and consumer does not count towards the period during which the seller is liable against the consumer.

One thing that is certain is that the Cypriot law dealing with consumer protection now largely meets, at least on paper, the corresponding European standards. The result is a clearer safeguard towards consumers' interests through the provision of substantial possibilities of remedying the rather unfortunate situation where goods do not meet the standards which they ought to.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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