Important information on the right to file a complaint

A trader operating in Estonia is legally required to be prepared to repair or replace a defective product within two years of the moment of sale.

The right to file a complaint

Upon discovering a deficiency in the product, the consumer is entitled to appeal to the trader within two years.

The Consumer Protection Act gives the buyer the right to file a complaint and the Law of Obligations Act provides that the consumer may do so within two years of the purchase. Manufacturing errors that have been discovered within that time limit are to be repaired or the goods are to be replaced.

Enterprises, salespersons as well as buyers tend to confuse the right to file a complaint with warranty. However, the law makes a clear distinction between these terms and the misuse of the word “warranty” is punishable. So what is the difference?

Unlike the right to file a complaint, which is provided by law, giving a warranty is optional. A warranty is a promise by the seller or manufacturer to offer the consumer a condition that is more advantageous than that provided by law.

A customer arrives at the shop with a problem. What next?

A complaint can be filed by the person in any form and either personally or through a representative. As a general rule, the first appeal takes place verbally, and in many cases the problem can be resolved on that basis. If the salesperson cannot, must not or does not know how to decide such matters, he or she may ask the customer to file a written complaint.

The mandatory elements of a complaint are:

  • name and contacts of the consumer
  • date of the complaint
  • description of the deficiency of the product or service
  • what is claimed from the trader.

A duplicate of the proof of purchase must be attached to the complaint. The easiest and most common way of proving a purchase is the receipt, but the law also allows other manners of proof. The consumer may, for example, add to the complaint an invoice, a bank account statement or a duplicate of another document that shows the time and parties of a purchase.

Burden of proof

The Law of Obligations Act involves the assumption that the deficiencies discovered within the first six months were present already during the transfer of the item to the consumer. In other words, a defect that occurred during the first six months is considered a manufacturing error and if the trader disagrees, he or she needs to prove the opposite.

Given that the trader is obligated to prove, during the first six months, that the deficiency is not a manufacturing error, the trader also bears the expenses related to providing proof, regardless of who is in the end considered to be at fault for the deficiency.

How to respond to a customer complaint?

Pursuant to the Consumer Protection Act, the trader is obligated to respond to a written customer complaint within 15 days. If the complaint cannot be resolved within that time limit, the trader must justify the delay and inform the consumer thereof in written form, also specifying a new reasonable time.

If it is decided that the consumer’s claim is to be satisfied, no written reply is necessary; it suffices to make a phone call or send an email, informing the customer that he or she can retrieve the repaired or replaced item, or that the purchase sum will be refunded to his or her bank account.

If no manufacturing error is found and the claim is left unsatisfied, it is mandatory to compose a written reply, which must also include sufficient justification of the decision.

What is a material breach of a sales contract?

Pursuant to the Law of Obligations Act, a material breach of a sales contract gives the consumer the right to withdraw from the contract, i.e. to return the goods and get a full refund. The consumer has this right in the following cases:

  • if the repair or replacement of the deficient product proves impossible or fails
  • If the trader refuses to repair or replace the item without justification
  • If the deficient product is not replaced or repaired within a reasonable time
  • If the repair or replacement creates unjustified inconvenience for the consumer.

Last amended: 03-05-2017 12:53 | Compiled by: Consumer Protection Board