How long do you have a guarantee

"Still ten months warranty" promises the private seller on Ebay. But if the buyer really wants to complain later, he may bite on granite. Because if the retailer doesn’t play ball, the original receipt is of little help.


With an anonymous receipt, complaining shouldn’t be a problem.

(Photo: imago stock&people)

Whether smartphones, household appliances or strollers – second-hand goods often sell better when they are offered within the two-year warranty period. What the private sellers and vendors often do not know: If the item is actually broken later, the original proof of purchase may be of little help. Because by law, the second owner cannot make a claim at all.

The legal warranty claims are regulated in the German Civil Code (Burgerliches Gesetzbuch). Accordingly, the seller must hand over the goods to the buyer free of defects. This means, among other things, that it is suitable for the intended use. For example, if the sole of a shoe comes off after only ten kilometers, this is a sign that it was defective in the first place. The dealer must then either repair, exchange or pay back the money. If an item breaks down in the first six months, it is usually assumed that it was defective from the outset. In case of later damage, the buyer must prove it.

Manufacturer can guarantee what he wants

It is easier if the manufacturer guarantees that the product will not break over a certain period of time. How exactly this warranty looks like, how long it lasts and which damages it covers, can be determined by the manufacturer himself. Because unlike the statutory warranty, the warranty is voluntary.

In the voluntary warranty, the manufacturer may also determine whether it should apply only to the first buyer or also to subsequent owners. Many producers do not have clear rules in this regard. In the case of electrical appliances, the complaint is often based on the serial number, so the buyer’s data is not very important. The case is different, for example, with bicycle manufacturers such as Cannondale or Trek. They even offer a lifetime warranty on the frame – but only for the first owner. If the bike is sold, the warranty is gone.

With the legal guarantee the thing is basically completely simple: The commercial dealer locks with the private buyer a contract and only to this must it keep. If the first owner resells the goods later, there is a new contract between him and the buyer. If the new owner wants to file a complaint, the private seller is the right contact, not the dealer. However, private sellers often exclude any warranty claims, and they are allowed to do so. In this case, the second owner is the loser in the event of damage.

Rights are transferable

So you should basically keep your hands off used goods? Not necessarily. Because there are certainly ways to avoid the warranty trap. It is easiest if the proof of purchase is anonymous. If you pay at the checkout in an electronics store, you do not normally have to leave your personal details there. So later it is not possible to trace whether it is the first or the second buyer who returns the goods. In the case of technical devices, where the complaint is based solely on the serial number, the buyer’s data is of secondary importance anyway.

If the invoice is in the name of the seller, there is another way: The first buyer can assign his warranty rights. A note in the purchase contract is sufficient. Then the new buyer can contact the dealer in case of damage. The problem: not all dealers go along with this. Sometimes one finds in the general trading conditions (AGB) the reference that an assignment is impossible. Although the Higher Regional Court of Hamm ruled in 2010 in the case of an Internet retailer that a blanket prohibition of assignment is invalid (Az. 4 U 134/10). However, there is no supreme court ruling on this and therefore the clause continues to be used.

Vorwerk has relented

The example of Vorwerk is prominent. The vacuum cleaner and kitchen appliance manufacturer sells its products directly and excludes the assignment of warranty claims in its general terms and conditions. This caused additional confusion in recent weeks when Vorwerk blindsided its customers with a successor model for the Thermomix kitchen machine.

Many "old" Thermomixes therefore landed on the relevant sales platforms, often advertised with the still months-long "residual warranty" or warranty, which according to Vorwerk should not exist at all. The fan community raged and before the matter got out of hand, the company relented. The used buyers now get the same rights as the direct customers.

Things do not always end so well. Trouble sometimes arises, for example, with cell phones or tablets from contract extensions. If you buy a used device and then complain to a foreign mobile phone provider, you can’t necessarily hope for a concession. If also nothing runs over the manufacturer warranty, only one solution remains: One turns to the private salesman and asks him to make the requirements valid opposite the dealer.

(This article was first published on Tuesday, 30. September 2014 for the first time.)

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