BAMF - Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge - Shopping and consumer protection

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Shopping and consumer protection

Shopping

You can buy food and other things you need on a daily basis in grocery shops, shopping centres and specialist shops. But the same goods do not always cost the same in different shops. Particularly good value prices – special offers – are often only valid for a short period. It is therefore worth finding out the exact details of offers, and comparing quality and prices.

If you are purchasing larger items it can be a good idea to read test reports about the products. There are lots of ways of finding out how good an offer really is. The Warentest foundation and the Federal Länder’s consumer headquarters provide information and product assessments in press reports, specialist magazines and publications on the internet.

Shop opening times

Shops in Germany do not all have the same opening hours; they differ from Land to Land. As a rule, shops are open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. from Monday to Saturday. In some Federal Länder the opening hours are longer.

Paying for purchases

You can pay for purchases with cash all over Germany. The option of paying by other methods (cash-free) is also available in almost all shops. To do this you need an account at a bank or Sparkasse that will provide you with an EC-card or a credit card with which you can pay for purchases. The amount you pay will then be automatically deducted from your account.

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Take care when participating in competitions: always be careful if you have to give your address. Organisers of such competitions often collect addresses and later the customers concerned receive advertising by post, e-mail or telephone. Store cards and loyalty cards can also help these organisations collect addresses, which are then used for unwanted advertising.

Shopping on the internet

Nowadays, you can buy many goods over the internet. However, not all offers on the internet are genuine. You should therefore be careful when shopping on the internet and participating in internet auctions. One safe way of shopping on the internet is choosing options where you only have to pay once you have received the goods and the invoice. Another secure method is the direct debit system that deducts funds directly from your bank account. For this to happen you must first give your permission. This method has the advantage that you can claim your money back from your bank within six weeks [if the goods are not received].

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If you are the victim of internet fraud, you should report the incident to the police as soon as possible and inform the website operator.

Warranty and guarantee

Every seller must ensure that his goods are not faulty. If, within two years, the customer notices faults or defects that existed at the time of purchase he has a statutory entitlement to a warranty. This also applies to goods purchased at a reduced price and special offers. This entitlement does not apply, of course, if a product wears out through use. If a fault occurs within the first six months after purchase, the seller must prove that the goods were sold to you without faults or defects. If more than six months have passed, you as the customer must prove that the goods were faulty at the outset.

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Guarantees and warranties are not the same thing. A guarantee (Garantie) is the manufacturer’s promise that his product has particular features and will function for a particular length of time. Guarantees are given on a voluntary basis. Manufacturers are not obliged to give a guarantee for their goods.

Exchanging goods

The exchange of goods always takes place on a voluntary basis. Shops are not obliged to exchange purchased goods if the goods are not faulty.

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If you want to return or exchange something because it is faulty, you do not need the original packaging. No one can demand that you keep boxes or plastic wrappers. You also do not necessarily need the till receipt. The receipt does make it easier, however, to prove where a product was bought. A bank statement or a witness statement may also serve as proof.

Door-to-door sales

A contract is agreed quickly – sometimes too quickly, above all at your front door, on the internet or over the telephone. Therefore you have a legal right to withdraw from such contracts. This means that you can cancel the contract and that it becomes invalid. You do not have to give reasons for your withdrawal. If problems should arise in spite of this, you can contact a consumer advice centre.

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This rule applies to

  • agreements that are entered into in the workplace, at a private residence, on the telephone or on public transport,
  • (purchase) contracts that are agreed on the internet,
  • catalogue orders
  • agreements made by letter, fax or e-mail,
  • agreements made on promotional excursions (often called Kaffeefahrten) or at open-air events.

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As a general rule, never sign anything that you have not understood properly. Before making a purchase, make sure you know how you can object and what the exceptions are (e.g. in the case of insurance contracts, hotel reservations and taxi journeys). Generally, you will only have two weeks in which to object in writing. You should therefore not wait too long before withdrawing from an agreement that you are unhappy with.

Date 18 January 2011

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