General Terms and Conditions of Business, a disregarded species!
Although millions of legal transactions are concluded based on General Terms and Conditions of Business every day, and the transaction volume, in this respect, probably falls within the billion range, many companies still use “homespun”, “copied out”, out of date and/or illegitimate T&Cs. This occurs even though the damage to the image of renowned brands and companies may be considerable, for example if a class action flutters into the letterbox from the Consumer Information Association (VKI) or the Austrian Chamber of Labour. The use of illegitimate clauses in General Terms and Conditions of Business also makes the company liable for damages. The financial damage caused by terms and conditions to which little thought has been given and judicial proceedings subsequently lost is often enormous.
This is the case regardless of whether you are the trader or the consumer. Due to the many millions of legal transactions that take place between private individuals and companies every day, the Consumer Protection Act is ubiquitous and often to be considered. Virtually every daily contract concluded is influenced by these regulations, regardless of whether we buy Christmas presents or complain about them, purchase a ticket or a drink, conclude a mobile phone contract, an insurance policy or a loan agreement, or order a book over the Internet.
The most important information for you as a consumer:
- Withdrawal from the contract - your rights: As a consumer, you have a right of withdrawal, inter alia, when concluding contracts in the course of door-to-door selling, on the Internet, by means of a catalogue or TV, with certain insurance and property transactions, in the case of magazine subscriptions or if certain important circumstances portrayed as being likely when concluding the contract fail to occur. The deadline for declaring a withdrawal from the contract is usually 14 days.
- Validity of contracts: As a consumer, you are often at an advantage. Even if you have signed a contract or accepted General Terms and Conditions of Business (T&Cs), that does not mean that every word and every contractual clause takes effect in regard to you. Immoral or grossly disadvantageous provisions or ones that are “hidden” in the T&Cs, may be invalid or contestable.
- Defects and warranty: Whereas the right to have a defect remedied/warranty right between traders may be strictly limited, consumers always have a right to a 2-year or 3-year guarantee period. You primarily have a right to exchange the article or have a defect remedied.
- Lawsuits and Court: As a consumer, you normally have to have be sued at your place of residence.
- Exchange of goods: Contrary to prevalent opinion, no general right to exchange goods exists. A right of exchange needs to be agreed separately in the course of concluding the contract.