Warranty and consumer protection

General information

Warranty is the statutory liability of the provider (the seller or contractor of the work). Unlike a warranty, a guaranteeGerman text is a voluntary liability.

  • Under warranty, the provider is liable for defects already present in the object or service at the time of delivery (supply).
  • The same applies if this defect only emerges later.
  • Liability applies to the item itself, not to consequential losses (exceptions are possible in the field of consumer protection, e.g. covering installation and dismantling costs incurred during warranty).
  • The transferor must neither be at fault nor have caused the defect.

Advice

In consumer transactions (business to consumer contracts; consumers are people for whom the transaction does not relate to running a business), warranty claims must be neither restricted nor precluded (either by contractual agreement or in the small print of general terms and conditions).

In a purchase from a private individual, any warranty claims can be reduced by mutual agreement or completely excluded. Further information on cross-border consumer contracts in the EUGerman text is also available at oesterreich.gv.at.

Definition of a defect

A defect exists if

  • the contractually agreed or
  • usually assumed features of the object or service

are not present.

Advice

Consumers are not obliged to investigate a defect or lodge a formal complaintGerman text about it. Nevertheless, it is advisable to complain in writing about defects immediately on discovery and describe them in detail. There is no deadline for reporting a defect.

Warranty claims

Warranty claims are to be divided into two stages:

  • in the first instance improvement (repair) or replacement (of generic objects which are standard products in terms of type, quantity and quality)
    In principle, the consumer has a choice between improvement and replacement, unless this becomes disproportionate for the provider (e.g. no replacement if only a minor repair is required). 
  • and only in the second instance a price reduction or annulment (cancellation of the contract, i.e. object/service in return for cash; no credit note)
    Price reduction or annulment can only be claimed if repair or replacement:
    • are not possible;
    • would entail disproportionate expense/effort for the provider; or
    • are refused or delayed;
    • cannot reasonably be expected of the business person, for good reasons associated with the person of the provider.

The consumer is still entitled to price reduction or annulment if repair or replacement would entail considerable inconvenience. Furthermore, in the field of consumer protection, consumers cannot be denied the right to improvement or replacement simply because that would entail disproportionate expense or effort on the part of the provider. Where applicable, the consumer must bear part of the additional cost. However, annulment is not allowed for minor defects.

Onus of proof and statute of limitationspan

The recipient must prove whether a defect exists. Only then does the question arise as to whether the defect was already present at the time of delivery.

In the first six months after delivery, the law presumes that a defect was present at the time of delivery. In that period, the provider must prove that the supply was defect-free at that time (reversal of the onus of proof). After six months, however, the recipient must provide evidence that the defect existed at the time of delivery/handover, i.e. that the defect was already present at least in substance` at that time (e.g. a material flaw which leads to breakage only after delivery).

Warranty claims are statute-barred after

  • two years for movable objects and
  • three years for immovable objects.

Those wishing to take legal action must do so within these deadlines, failing which their claims will lapse. Before the claim comes to court, the provider must have been given the opportunity (preferably by written request) to meet the warranty claims in reasonable time.

Further information on out-of-court dispute resolution for consumersGerman text is also available at oesterreich.gv.at.

Caution

If expressly agreed by contract, the two-year warranty period may be reduced to one year for used, movable objects (a motor vehicle must have been licensed for at least one year). A reference in the general terms and conditions or a standard clause in a contract is not sufficient.

Once a warranty claim has been met, new warranty claims are possible for repaired or replaced items. The warranty period begins afresh, but only if the claim has been met under the statutory warranty and not as a goodwill gesture.

If a warranty claim arises from a consumer transaction and the providing business person did not cause the defect himself, he may claim indemnity by a right of recourse against upstream businesses. The business person may claim indemnity against the upstream business person even if his own warranty claim is already statute-barred. This right of recourse may extend back, from one link in the sales chain to another, to the manufacturer. In any case, this right lapses five years after the upstream business person provided the original service. The business with the right of recourse must exercise that right within two months of actual fulfilment of its own warranty obligation.

 Online shopping

right of withdrawal in online shoppingGerman text und the law applicable to online ordersGerman text can also be found at oesterreich.gv.at.

Further links

Legal basis

Translated by the European Commission
Last update: 22 January 2021
Responsible for the content:
  • Federal Ministry of Social Affairs, Health, Care and Consumer Protection
  • Federal Ministry of Justice