Legal and Commercial Guarantees for Online Sales

On 1 June 2015, the economic inspectorate of the FPS Finance participated in a European investigation intended to detect violations of the guarantee legislation for online sales (the investigation in question concerned electronics but the rules are identical regardless of the type of consumer good being sold).

The Belgian investigation extended to 59 websites and revealed problems on 27 of these sites.
The most common breaches were an absence of or lack of clarity with respect to mentions concerning the guarantee (warranty), the seller's liability under the legal guarantee (statutory warranty), and the conditions to benefit from a commercial guarantee.

Below we briefly recall the applicable requirements in this regard.

Online sales are considered by the legislature to be distance sales and are thus governed by specific provisions intended to protect and inform consumers.

In order to meet the statutory requirements applicable to a guarantee, the seller must:

  • expressly and clearly inform consumers of the existence of a legal guarantee (two years for new goods and at least one year for second-hand goods);
  • if applicable, disclose the existence of a commercial guarantee and the conditions to benefit from it; it should in particular also indicate that the commercial guarantee is without prejudice to the legal guarantee.

It is important to keep in mind that under no circumstances can a trader pass off a legal guarantee as a commercial one.

The fines for such violations can reach EUR 150,000.