Consumer Rights in The Netherlands

March 21, 2013 By Jenny Juist-Morrice Comments

This helpful overview will guide you through your rights as a consumer in The Netherlands.

What is a consumenten koop (consumer purchase)?

We speak of a consumenten koop (consumer purchase) if a consumer buys a product from a seller, for example a shop. The consumenten koop is a verbal or written agreement between you and the seller, which brings rights and obligations to both parties.

For example, the agreed price has to be paid by you and the seller has to deliver a sound product. That means a product that meets certain requirements during a certain period of time when used as intended.

Regarding warranty there are a lot of misconceptions: Warranty means that the seller or manufacturer is able to deliver the quality of a product. Therefore, the legal right of a sound product always applies, also after the warranty period.

When do we speak of a koopovereenkomst?

A koopovereenkomst is an agreement to purchase, which can be done verbally or in writing. So verbally agreeing to purchase is as much an agreement as a signature for an order. You don’t have to pay for the product in order to agree to a koopovereenkomst.

What should I watch out for when I agree to a purchase?

When closing an agreement, make sure you are aware of the terms and conditions that apply (algemene voorwaarden). Read them or ask the seller what the most important clauses are.

If you agree to buy, general conditions usually apply - also referred to in Holland as de kleine lettertjes (small prints). These are drafted by the seller, sometimes in consultation with consumer organisations like the consumentenbond. The general conditions usually contain:

  • Payment conditions
  • Guarantee conditions
  • The organization to which the seller maybe connected.
  • How the company handles complaints.

What are my rights?

  • Terms and conditions are only valid if you have accepted them.
  • The seller must make the terms and conditions available to you without you asking for it. If this is not possible, the seller may send the conditions later.
  • If you terminate the agreement, terms and conditions may also be provided via internet.
  • If you have not been given terms and conditions then you are not bound to purchase.
  • Terms and conditions must be reasonable. The law states a black and a grey list of examples of unreasonable conditions. If conditions are not reasonable, then you are not bound to purchase.
  • Terms and conditions may not be modified by the seller, unless it is a change included in the agreement (amending clause).  Therefore terms and conditions have to indicate on what grounds changes can be made.
  • The seller should deliver the amended terms to the customer in a timely manner. A general message or an entry in a newspaper is not enough.

I have regrets after having made a purchase. Can I undo the sale?

  • If you buy a product in a shop you can undo the sale only if the seller agrees. Some resellers offer the possibility to cancel the purchase agreement under certain conditions, if the product is unused and undamaged. This is stated in the terms and conditions (algemene voorwaarden). For example: To exchange a product with refund within 7 days, one can pay a cancelation fee or get a voucher. To sum up: A sale is a sale; you can’t legally do much to undo it. Talk to the seller and see if you can come to a reasonable solution.
  • If a product is defective, the seller cannot just give you a voucher in return: don’t accept it! Once you accept the voucher, you cannot claim anymore that your product is defective. (See “My purchase is broken (defective), what do I do?)

What are my rights?

  • Exchanging goods is not a right but an extra service, for which terms apply. Make sure these terms apply and find out what they entail.
  • When you buy a product at a distance, for example via internet or over the phone, a distance contract apply: you legally have 7 working days to change your mind (bedenktijd) and can send the product back. For products sold at the door (colportage) you have 8 days.

I bought a product that is defective. What can I do?

Go back to the seller. You are entitled to a replacement or reparation, unless the seller can prove that the product has been used in the wrong manner.

What are my rights?

If your purchase within six months of delivery (receiving the goods) has a defect that is not caused by wear and tear and was used as it was intended (according to manual), the law assumes the product is defective. You are entitled to a free replacement or reparation, unless the seller can prove that the product has been used in the wrong manner.  This should be done in a reasonable time, without too much disruption. If the reparation takes longer than 3 weeks, then you can request to borrow a replacement for the time being. If the seller cannot repair or replace it within a reasonable time, you can undo the sale and request a refund.

What should I do?

  • Contact the seller and explain that you used the product according to instructions but it broke nevertheless. Ask for a solution (reparation or replacement).
  • If the seller cannot repair or replace it within a reasonable time, you can request to borrow a replacement for the time being or undo the sale and request a refund.

If the defect of your product occurs outside of the guarantee period, you will have to prove that the defect was not caused by wear and tear or wrong usage. If this can be proven, the same as above applies. However, if the reparations makes the product last longer, the seller can ask you to contribute to the reparation.

Beware! You can only request a refund if:

  • You have given the seller the opportunity to repair or replace the goods
  • The seller cannot or will not repair or replace the goods in a reasonable term
  • The goods are still defect after numerous repairs

I have a complaint, what can I do?

Have you not been treated well by the seller? Or doesn’t the seller keep to the agreement? First try to explain your complaint to the seller. What are you not satisfied about? What were your expectations and what have your received? Stay neutral and business-like. Threats, insults and anger will only work against you.

Wait for the seller to suggest a reasonable solution. If not, propose a solution. Always make sure you ask for the name of the person you are speaking to. This increases their engagement in coming to a solution and also gives you a name to fall back on. Also ensure you take notes of what was agreed and when the conversation took place, just in case the matter is not resolved. Important promises that were made should be put in writing.

What if the seller disregards my complaint?

Send the seller a letter with your complaint. Describe the solution and how you expect the seller to comply with it. Give the seller 3 weeks to reply. It is best to have the letter sent registered. The letter should also describe any suffered damages and what actions will follow if the matter is not resolved. Request a written answer to prevent the seller from calling you. Also it might be necessary to build up a case. If the seller has an official complaint procedure, make sure you follow this when sending your complaint. Do not use the online “contact form” as you will not get a confirmation of receipt.

If after four weeks you have not received an answer or the answer is not to your satisfaction, you can file a formal complaint via de geschillencommissie. Please note, you can only file a complaint if you have written a letter to the seller.

If the seller is not affiliated to de geschillencommissie, you can enable legal aid. You can check if the seller (or its branch organization) is affiliated with the geschillencommissie.

How do warranties work?

There are two types of warranty:

  • Legal warranty
  • Extended warranty

You always have legal warranty during the first 6 months. Extra guarantee can be offered by the shop or manufacturer at its discretion.

Sometimes a manufacturer offers an extended warranty, if you register the product. The extended warranty can comprise longer warranty period or warranty on more parts. Usually registration is online: you complete a form with details about yourself and your purchase.

If the purchase has a defect during the warranty period, then you can assume that the product is faulty. The seller or manufacturer will repair or replace it. However, this only applies if you have used the product as it is intended.

If the warranty period has expired, this doesn’t mean you don’t have any rights. Also after this period, you retain the right to a faultless product.

What are my rights?

  • If a product shows a defect within 6 months, the law assumes the product is defective. The seller has to prove the opposite, by for example showing that the product was not used as intended.
  • Also in case of extended warranty, the seller/manufacturer must prove that the product is flawless and that the defect does not fall under the warranty. If he cannot prove it, the problem must be resolved.
  • Extended warranty is an addition to the legal warranty and none of the rights may be restricted or excluded.
  • Outside the warranty period, you can always claim your product is defective, as the seller is legally bound to deliver a flawless product.
  • When a product is defective, this doesn’t mean that you regret your purchase (even though you do!) so the seller cannot just give you a voucher.
  • Make sure you inform the seller of the defect as soon as possible and within 2 months of discovering the problem. You are within time according to the law.

For more information about consumer rights in the Netherlands, please visit: www.consumenteninformatiepunt.nl and (in Dutch) www.consumentenbond.nl


photo credit: HikingArtist.com via photopin cc

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