If you're shopping the traditional way, the contractor is liable for the goods being free of any defects at the time of transfer. If they are not, you have the right to claim repair or replacement respectively price reduction or redhibitory action (= reversal of the contract) on the grounds of legal guarantee. The very same applies for sales contracts concluded on the Internet (but than it is likely the trader is not in the same country).
EU-wide minimum protection
In general, legal guarantee is regulated by law Europe-wide. An EU-Directive specifies a minimum degree of protection for buyers and the EU Member States are obliged to implement such guidelines in national laws, which may also offer a higher level of protection.
Legal situation in Austria
If your contract partner provides a defective good or service, the rules of legal guarantee apply if the defect already was present at the handover/delivery. Defects that occur within the first six months, are believed to have already been present at delivery.
Note: Legal and commercial guarantee are fundamentally different!
While legal guarantee is a legal principle that cannot be excluded or limited in the contract, commercial guarantee is only a voluntary commitment of the entrepreneur to stand up for deficiencies within a limited, fixed period of time. Legal guarantee can usually only be claimed at the manufacturer. It is therefore advisable to claim for damages within the legal guarantee periods at the contractor and only make use of the commercial guarantee possibilities after the legal one has already passed.
When can we speak of a defect?
A service or good is considered defective if they are not of satisfactory quality and / or do not fit to their purpose.
A deficiency in title occurs if the dealer cannot provide the purchaser the kind of legal position that he promised him in the contract (e.g. selling without any power of disposition). Obvious defects are easily recognisable to everyone (all others: hidden defects).
Furthermore, a distinction between recoverable and non-recoverable defects is necessary. If a defect is considered recoverable, it can be removed using commercially reasonable means. Also, an assembly-error is classified as a defect regardless of whether the operator engages in improper installation, or whether the consumer causes a defect as a result of improper installation instructions.
The burden of proving that a defect exists lies with the consumer.
Consequences of a defect: repair, replacement, price reduction or redhibitory action
In principal the consumer has the choice if he would like a repair or a replacement of the product. Would a replacement cause unreasonably high costs for the entrepreneur, he is entitled to offer the repair of the defective item. On the other hand, the contractor may also offer exchange of the item if the repair would cause him unbearably high costs. Both repair and replacement are to be made within reasonable time.
Price reduction or redhibitory actions...
...can be sought if:
- repair or replacement are impossible,
- repair or replacement are associated with a disproportionate burden or considerable inconvenience for the seller,
- the contractor refuses to repair or replace the item within reasonable time,
- repair or replacement are impossible for reasons that lie in the person of the contractor.
Exclusion of legal guarantee
In general a contractor must not exclude or limit legal guarantee. No legal guarantee rights apply for obvious defects though.
Exception: The seller is liable if he has ensured the missing properties explicitly or concealed these fraudulently.
Deadlines for filing legal guarantee claims
You have a mandatory deadline of two years for movable items and three years for immovable property.
Used movable objects: an agreement can be made to limit the legal guarantee to one year (this only applies for cars, if the date of the first registration has passed more than a year); previous negotiations with the buyer are required.
Hire purchase: the legal guarantee is extended to the maturity of the last instalment.