The 14-Day Cooling-Off Period: Know Your Rights
The EU consumer directive regulations on distance selling include a cooling-off period of 14 days. Know exactly what’s covered and what isn’t.
The regulations class any sale not made on company premises as a distance purchase. This covers not only online purchases, but also those made over the phone, from a catalogue or door-to-door sales.
The 14-day cooling-off period starts to count from the day that you receive the goods or sign a contract. If the period ends on a non-working day then it is extends until the nearest working day.
If you decide to return the goods or cancel the service you should receive a refund within 14 days including basic delivery costs. Optional (more expensive) express delivery is not refundable.
How should you return goods and inform the company?
Remember that it’s not enough simply to return goods purchased, you must inform the company of your decision to withdraw from the purchase agreement. In Spanish this is called your Derecho de Desistimiento. You don’t have to say why you’re making a return, even if asked by the company.
The company must make a template letter available (based on a standard EU form) that can be used to cancel any contract or withdraw from a purchase. Normally this form will be available online, or on paper in the package when you receive goods.
However if you use the goods and then change your mind you can’t simply request a refund as you should return goods in pristine condition. Take into account that you can open the packaging to inspect the contents (e.g. clothing).
Which goods or services aren’t covered?
Some goods or services are exempt from the law including:
- Plane, train, concert tickets and hotel bookings
- Goods made to order (such as a made-to-measure suit) or personalised (with a name, date or other text)
- Sealed DVDs, Blu-ray, videogames which have been opened
- Purchases from private sellers
- Urgent repairs (eg plumber or locksmith)
- Financial services that depend on currency fluctuations
- Perishable goods (such as foodstuffs)
- Health and hygiene goods (eg shavers) when the packaging has been opened.
- Goods sold at public auctions
- Daily newspapers or magazines (except for subscriptions)
- Goods that form part of a set and cannot be sold individually.
If you contract a service and specifically request that it commence before the 14-day period ends (for example a telecoms service), be aware that even though you still have the right to cancel you will be liable for any services the company provides during that period.
What can go wrong?
Some companies may try to charge you for returns. In this case it must be made clear on the website, or from the salesperson, all the associated costs. This could be the case with bulky items such as furniture, and is especially the case with smaller vendors that may find it difficult to cover the cost of returns.
If there is no mention of any additional cost then the vendor cannot charge you once you’ve informed them about your intention to withdraw from the contract.
Another issue is that of personalised goods. Unless manufacture has actually commenced then a company cannot refuse to cancel the contract during the cooling-off period. To keep these cases to a minimum, companies have to provide proof that manufacture started before the 14-day period ended because the customer specifically requested it.
In all cases always check the small print in any contract and don’t just take the word of the salesperson regarding your cancellation rights.
Who can help when there’s a problem?
The EU portal has full info on consumer rights and the cooling-off period, find out more here.
If you encounter any problems, and the company is unwilling to help, visit your local Municipal Consumer Office (Oficina Municipal del Consumidor – OMIC). They will be able to advise you free of charge, but remember to take along all your paperwork such as delivery note, purchase withdrawal letter and contract (if applicable).
Not all regions in Spain use an online system for Official Claims Forms, ask at your local OMIC.
If you need to take the matter to court, for any claims under 2000€ only a verbal hearing is necessary and no lawyer is required. A template for verbal hearings can requested from your local courthouse.
Remember that faulty goods can always be returned. Take a look at our dedicated post for more info.