Right of return – these rights customers


The right of return is an important issue for every entrepreneur when selling goods. Find out here which regulations apply..

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As an entrepreneur in stationary retail or as the owner of an online store, you regularly have to deal with customers who want to make use of their (supposed) right of return. Therefore, it is essential to know the applicable rules exactly. When may consumers return purchased goods if not satisfied? What rights are your customers entitled to in the event of defects? When do you have to pay out the money in cash in case of a return and when are you allowed to issue vouchers? What are the different rights in stationary and online trade? Here you get a comprehensive overview of the current legal situation.

Return, exchange, warranty and guarantee – a brief overview

seller in stationary trade are allowed to follow Mnemonic memorize:

The German Civil Code (BGB) does not recognize the right to exchange or return goods that are free of defects.

Rejects a product Defects the buyer has a warranty claim . A Warranty goes beyond the legal warranty claim beyond and must from the seller in the sales contract or in advertising be clearly indicated.

Other rules apply in distance selling . Here the customer has No possibility to beforehand "by touch to check. To compensate for this disadvantage, the legislator grants consumers 14-day right of withdrawal to. Thus, the customer has the opportunity to check like and function and may also return defect-free goods without giving reasons.

A The right to exchange and return exists in stationary trade only, if you as a business owner accordingly accommodating are. In mail order business fall Return periods, the longer than the legal requirements costs, likewise under Goodwill. One legal entitlement to an exchange or a return from faultless goods have consumers in stationary trade not at all, and in mail order only 14 days long.

Right of return and right of exchange: What is the difference??

In everyday language use make few consumers make a distinction between exchanges and returns. Legally seen it concerns however completely different things. Therefore consider well, whether you your customer as a gesture of goodwill a right of return or exchange want to concede. You should also clearly formulate whether you want a Exchange or the return accept.

  • Exchange
    Grant a right of exchange, customers may goods simply return, when this do not like. However, there is only the possibility to exchange for other goods or against a voucher, which can be redeemed at the next purchase in your store.
  • Return
    If you grant your customers the right to return goods, the goods may also be returned if not pleased to be returned. But here you must use refund the purchase price. the customer is not bound to your deal and can spend the money elsewhere.

Attention! The right of exchange and return are voluntary services that you offer as a gesture of goodwill. However, as soon as you do this, you are legally bound to your decision.

The right of return can be limited

Provided that you accept the exchange or return of goods, you may tie the right of return to certain conditions. The following restrictions are possible and reasonable:

  • return or exchange only on presentation of the receipt or the invoice
  • time limit from for example 7, 14 or 30 days to unlimited from the date of purchase
  • Exclude reduced goods of exchange or return
  • Exclusion of underwear and swimwear from hygienic reasons
  • Exclusion of special and custom-made products of returns and exchanges

Tip: Please note that the exclusion of a right of exchange or return never affects the statutory warranty claim. This remains.

What is the difference between the right of withdrawal and the right of return?

A Exchange or return right you grant your customers voluntarily as a gesture of goodwill a. However, the law provides for certain situations before, in which the customer disadvantaged would, if he not withdraw from the purchase contract should be. Therefore, the legislator grants consumers in following cases automatically a right of withdrawal the right of withdrawal, as it is Distance selling business acts:

  • orders on the Internet
  • telephone orders and those by fax or e-mail
  • business transactions outside business premises
  • doorstep selling
  • coffee trips
  • Credit transactions

The legislator assumes that Consumers in these cases do not examine the goods closely for their properties as in stationary trade may or, in the case of transactions outside the business premises of the entrepreneur or credit transactions, do not have enough time to consider the consequences of their decision and the terms and conditions. To compensate for this disadvantage, the law provides that customers may must have 14 days to cancel the contract without giving any reason.

Pay attention to a legally secure revocation instruction

As Seller, who offers goods or credit transactions at a distance, you are in the obligation. It is your abandonment, inform the customer about the the possibility to revoke the purchase contract. Miss this notice, the 14-day period begins only if you have information made up have. After twelve months and 14 days the right of withdrawal expires. In practice, this means: Without correct information on the right of withdrawal, the customer may withdraw from the purchase within twelve months and 14 days.

As an online retailer, you are obliged to grant consumers the right of withdrawal. Additionally you can voluntary basis accommodating his and a broader right of exchange and return grant.

Tip: There are goods that are exempt from withdrawal, such as custom-made and custom-made products that were made specifically for a customer or perishable food products.

Important facts for start-ups: These rules apply when withdrawing from a purchase

Consumers do not always want to return an item because they do not like it or it does not fit. Often lead defects to the fact that buyers Register warranty claim. Because every buyer has Right to defect-free and functioning goods.

The following overview shows which rules apply.

1. Withdrawal and reduction

Consumers have in principle the right that the purchased goods in case of proper use holds 24 months. In the first six months, the burden of proof lies with the seller; after that, the buyer must prove that the defect complained of was already present at the time of purchase. For wear parts, however, the buyer can not demand a free replacement. Whether wear and tear is present depends on what the average buyer may expect in terms of the durability of the goods under normal use.

A defective goods do not simply entitle the buyer to withdraw from the purchase contract. The buyer must give the seller the Possibility of subsequent performance grant. Only if two repair attempts or one replacement fail, the Buyer withdraws from the contract or a Reduction of the purchase price. In the case of only insignificant defects, withdrawal from the contract is ruled out; only a price reduction is possible.

In return, the seller is allowed to make a Compensation for use demand. Example: A washing machine usually works ten years in the household. Six months after purchase, the buyer withdraws from the contract. The washing machine cost 500 euros. With the assumed term, 50 euros of the purchase price will be charged for each year of use; after six months of use, you can retain 25 euros of the purchase price as a usage fee. However, this applies only in case of withdrawalt from the purchase. If the customer receives a replacement device from you, you are not allowed to claim compensation for use.

2. regulate voluntary guarantees in the purchase contract

Many manufacturers lure customers with voluntary guarantees. These additional promises must be clearly defined and comprehensible to the customer in a warranty document. However, the warranty claims that go beyond the statutory warranty claims are guarantees are often limited and include z. B. only certain components. For this reason, it is often more advantageous for customers to instead of the warranty the warranty of the dealer use. Not only manufacturers, but also sellers may provide guarantees that go beyond the legal offer (z. B. guaranteed delivery dates, functional guarantee beyond the warranty claim, etc.) and are then to be promises bound.

3. The GTC – effectively agreeing the fine print

Whether in the supermarket, when buying a used car or in a furniture store – every purchase results in a purchase contract. As a dealer, you may, in addition to the individual agreements in the purchase contract, formulate general terms and conditions (GTC) that govern Rights and obligations of both parties define. But for the GTC to apply, they must effectively agreed with the buyer become. This is under the following Conditions case:

  • The buyer will at the conclusion of the contract be expressly referred to in the general terms and conditions.
  • The purchaser has the opportunity to knowledge to take.
  • He is linked to the small print in the GTC expressly agree.

In practice, this means that if the general terms and conditions are on the back of the contract, further back in the contract or in an annex to the contract, you must clearly point out. At vending machine purchase, in the retail store, in the parking garage or a car wash etc.it is sufficient, by way of exception, to to be displayed in a clearly visible position.

tip: The first reference to the GTC in the invoice, receipt or delivery bill is too late to be. The reference must be made before the conclusion of the contract and should therefore be included in the offer letter together with the terms and conditions.

4. Product liability of the manufacturer

A defective product can consequential damages for persons or property cause. In this case the product liability applies. A product is defective in the following cases, among others:

  • defective design
  • faulty, incomplete or completely missing instructions for use
  • Defects that were overlooked due to insufficient quality control

For the Product liability applies:

  • The Seller is liable only within the scope of the warranty For the defective product. It must be used for a repair, a flawless replacement product or a refund of the purchase price provide. If the seller did not cause the defect, he can have the supplier reimburse the costs.
  • The In addition to the cost of the defective product, the manufacturer is also liable for consequential damage, which caused a defective product.

5. Sale of used goods

Commercial sellers, which used goods If you trade and sell to consumers, you must also issue a reminder for them two-year warranty offer, as is the case with new goods. However, you have the possibility to warranty period for used goods to be limited to one year via GTCs.

Tip: Describe the condition of the used goods in the purchase contract very precisely in order to avoid disputes. This is especially true for expensive used items such as cars . If the buyer of the used goods is a trader, the seller can completely exclude the warranty.

6. Delays in the agreed performance

Especially furniture and other larger products are often not available immediately after purchase. Therefore, buyer and seller agree in the purchase contract a delivery period. Can you deadline is not met, the customer may at worst withdraw from the contract and claim damages for non-performance. The following rules apply:

  • Is in the purchase contract a specific delivery date agreed, the seller shall be liable for damages in the event of non in default without a reminder.
  • Is the Delivery date less precise agreed (e.g. B. delivery in two to three weeks), then the buyer must remind so that the seller is in default.
  • For products, which – like a birthday cake or a wedding dress – is only needed for a specific date needed, you are immediately in default in the event of culpable non-performance and the purchaser may Claim compensation for damages.

After the expiry of the delivery period specified in the date or a reminder, the purchaser may be in withdraw from the contract and claim damages.

7. supplementary performance and replacement

If a customer complains about a product within the Warranty period, he may first only Subsequent performance demand. He has the choice, a repair or a replacement to be demanded. Return the defective product and He may not yet demand a refund of the purchase price at this point. If the customer decides to have the product repaired, you as the seller have the right to, two repair attempts perform. Only if the fails, the customer may withdraw from the purchase contract and claim your money back. The seller must accept the customer’s choice of the type of subsequent delivery, unless it is unreasonable for him to.

8. compensation by the dealer

As Dealer you are liable to your customers compensation obligated, if the purchased Goods do not have the properties described in the purchase contract or the expected properties and you are responsible for this (z. B. incorrect information about the mileage of a used car).

9. The statutory warranty periods

The legal warranty periodt for dealers is two years, at fraudulent misrepresentation of the customer extends this period for one more year. For the sale of used goods to consumers, the warranty period can be one year reduced for this purpose, a Agreement in the purchase contract or a note in the AGB required. The Customer must have a defect in time indicate before the expiry of the period.

10. Cancellation of purchase contracts

Purchase contracts in stationary trade must be complied with, unless the dealer grants a right of exchange or withdrawal as a gesture of goodwill. The situation is different with Sales contracts under the Distance Selling Act from. Here the seller is obliged to give the buyer a to grant a 14-day right of withdrawal and in the contract explicitly point out.

11. conclusion of a contract of sale

Whether at the kiosk, the supermarket or the car dealership – changes goods against money the owner, a Contract of sale concluded. If the goods are not available at the time of purchase, the seller and buyer can agree that the order will be picked up later or sent to the customer. In principle, the goods free from defects at the time of purchase be.

May the buyer exchange goods if not satisfied?

Many buyers believe that they are allowed to return goods to the seller within a certain period of time and are entitled to a refund of the invoice amount. This is the case for purchases made in a Retail store have been made, not the case. The following applies Principle that contracts are to be kept. If the customer later finds out that he regrets his decision or does not like the goods after all, he has to bear the consequences. A legal right of exchange or return does not exist. You can give your customers the opportunity to Goodwill grant. Whether you make use of it, that depends strongly on your competitors. Is a Right of return in your industry usual, it makes sense to offer it as well.

Special case mail order

If Contracts of sale outside the business premises come about as in the case of Orders by letter, telephone, e-mail or fax or in online shops the customer is entitled to Right of withdrawal for 14 days to. This is to give consumers the opportunity to inspect the goods and protect them from impulse buying and being caught off guard. sellers must customer explicitly point out this right.

What rights does the customer have in case of defects?

Is a Goods at the time of transfer of ownership to the customer defective, takes effect § 438 Abs. 1 of the Civil Code. The customer has the Right to exchange for defect-free goods or at a repair. Only if the not possible is allowed to use the Demanding back the purchase price.

Tip: you are not allowed to undermine the legal right of warranty. It applies without restrictions also for cosmetics, underwear or reduced goods.

There are two phases to the warranty:

  • In the first six months after purchase is accepted, that the lack already has existed at the time of purchase. After this period the buyer must prove, that the product is already defective at the time of purchase Was.

May agree on an individual right of return?

As a general rule, grant the right to return goods via the AGB or your standard purchase contract a right of exchange or return, then you must offer to all customers. If you but not usually allow for returns or exchanges, you may use this option with individual (z. B. unsafe customers) agree individually.

Tip: Keep the terms of the exchange or return right in writing to avoid disputes.

What are the limits of goodwill in case of exchange or return??

retailers who offer their customers a grant a right of exchange or return, are allowed to Limit the scope of goodwill. Typical limits of goodwill include the following:

  • Exchange or return period: You may limit the time period of the right of return and take back goods only a certain time (for example, 14 days or one month) from the date of purchase.
  • Receipt or invoice: You are allowed to require customers to show the receipt or invoice to use the return policy.
  • original packaging: It is possible to take back only goods in original packaging or with intact hygiene, safety or freshness labels.
  • Exclude product groups: It is possible to exclude certain goods such as cosmetics, underwear or swimwear from the right of return.
  • Reduced goods: Even store goods do not necessarily have to be included in the right of exchange or return.

Tip: Define exactly whether you allow exchanges or returns, and set the conditions for doing so. Make it clear which goods are excluded from the right of exchange or return.

Pitfalls in advertising with exchange or return rights

For customers, a accommodating exchange or return right a good purchase argument. Accordingly, it is popular to use such conditions in advertising. However, advertising may neither "Self-evident" advertise nor be misleading. The following examples illustrate the problem, because it is often not clear to the customer which exchange or return right is meant:

  • Reduced goods excluded from exchange: It is generally possible to exclude reduced goods from exchange or return. However the impression can arise here, that also legal warranty obligation excluded is. So that such an advertising not misleading should be the Addition is made that the warranty obligation nevertheless exists.
    14 days right of return: When you offer an Online store operate, advertise forbidden as a matter of course. The Distance Selling Act grants every customer a 14-day right of withdrawal. In stationary trade in turn, the impression is created, that you have to return Limit liability for defects from 24 months to 14 days. Therefore an addition should be made that the warranty obligation remains unaffected by it.

Tip: Get expert advice (z. B. from your Chamber of Industry and Commerce for Munich and Upper Bavaria) to avoid mistakes in advertising with the right of return.

Right of exchange and return – money or voucher?

Offer your customers from Goodwill an exchange or return right, then the question arises whether the Purchase amount paid out must be or a voucher suffices. It depends on the following, Which right you grant to your customers:

  • Right of return: The customer has the right to return the goods without giving any reason and gets his money back.
  • Right of exchange: The customer may exchange the goods for other goods (z. B. dress in a different size) or return a gift certificate. With this voucher he may buy in your store later.

Separate rules apply to the right of withdrawal in distance selling and to the statutory warranty.

What about the right of return in online business?

In Online stores have customers in principle the right, the Goods up to 14 days after purchase without giving reasons return. You as a dealer must clearly inform your customers about their Pointing out the right of withdrawal. In addition, you have the option of Goodwill to grant a more extensive right of exchange and return.

What about the right of return in the online trade with the shipping costs?

If the customer of an online store makes use of his right of withdrawal, the question arises how to handle the shipping costs.


The Reimburse costs for shipping goods to the customer. This does not apply to surcharges that the customer has voluntarily chosen (z. B. Express shipping). Sends the customer only a part of the goods back (partial revocation) is the Part of the shipping costs to be refunded, which is not applicable to these goods. If the delivery falls below the limit for free shipping after a partial cancellation, you are allowed to charge the customer for the shipping costs afterwards.

Return shipping costs

The Return goes purely legally at the expense of the customer, if this was duly instructed before conclusion of a contract about its right of revocation. In the case of (forwarding) goods that cannot be sent by parcel post, you are obliged to inform the customer of the specific amount of the return costs before the purchase is made. However, online retailers may voluntarily cover the return shipping costs for their customers.

How do I properly protect myself as a seller via contracts and general terms and conditions??

Particularly important for traders are Sales contracts and general terms and conditions. Here you regulate Rights and obligations of both contracting parties. Please note the following rules:

  • Formulate your AGB understandable.
  • Include the terms and conditions in the purchase contract.
  • end consumers have to read the terms and conditions when signing the contract as Part of the documents available
  • At Corporate clients suffices a Note on the terms and conditions in the purchase contract.
  • In Restaurants and other transactions in which no written contracts are concluded must be Display terms and conditions clearly visible.
  • In Online stores customers have to agree to terms and conditions by one click. In addition, it must be possible to Download and print the AGB.

Tip: Never accept pre-formulated general terms and conditions without checking them.

Frequently asked questions about the right of return

Exchange without receipt – obligation or goodwill?

If a retailer offers a voluntary exchange or return policy, they may insist on the receipt being presented and refuse to accept the return otherwise.

Fake or fact? If reduced goods are excluded from exchange?

Retailers may exclude reduced goods from the right to exchange or return offered as a gesture of goodwill. In the case of defective goods, however, the warranty obligation still applies.

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