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Shopping in Austria: What are your consumer rights when purchasing goods?

Amanda Previdelli
Amanda Previdelli - [email protected]
Shopping in Austria: What are your consumer rights when purchasing goods?
People walk down Vienna's most popular shopping street Mariahilfer Street as the sun shines in Vienna, Austria on October 13, 2023. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

With the Christmas shopping season ahead, it's essential to understand your rights as a consumer in Austria.

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Austrians take Christmas shopping so seriously that they even lift a ban on shop openings during holidays for it. The last holiday before the celebrations is the only one when stores are allowed to stay open, and many take advantage of the opportunity to attract shoppers in early December.

But as people prepare to buy presents during this season - and throughout the year - it's important to know your rights as a consumer in Austria.

There is no right of exchange

In Austria, there is no right of exchange regulated by law, as explained by the Chamber of Labour (AK). However, many retailers will voluntarily grant an exchange, so you should check all fine print and even ask for a right of exchange to be noted in an invoice.

The AK also recommends that consumers keep invoices regardless so that they can try to exchange unopened goods for something else of corresponding value.

Money is not usually returned after purchases unless there is an express agreement. Sometimes, stores will choose to give out vouchers. 

"When buying gifts online, pay attention to delivery times, address details, especially with unknown retailers, and the small print. Compare prices and look at additional costs," advise the AK consumer protection experts. "Be sceptical of very cheap branded goods. They could be counterfeit. If possible, don't pay in advance!"

Austria's Chamber of Labour also advises care with retailers "for example from Asia".

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READ ALSO: Six helpful tips to save money on food shopping in Austria

Right of withdrawal

For most online sales, there is a "right of withdrawal" - even if no right of exchange or return is agreed upon. You can only withdraw from contracts or purchases if you have bought in distance selling (online or teleshopping, for example) or outside business premises (via a door-to-door salesperson, for instance).

Even if you are approached by a salesperson outside a store and then conclude a contract inside, it can be withdrawn.

In principle, you can withdraw within 14 days of the conclusion of the contract or the day of delivery of goods, but if the seller didn’t inform you of your right of withdrawal, your right is extended to 12 months.

According to the AK, simply returning the goods is not enough. You must also send a declaration of withdrawal within 14 days. However, you do not have to comply with any particular form or give any reasons.

READ ALSO: Austrian Christmas traditions: The festive dates you need to know

However, this right has some exceptions, including goods specially made for you, various leisure services (such as hotel bookings or concert tickets), gambling, downloads or streaming of digital content, and others.

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Warranty

People in Austria also have a right to warranty (different from a guarantee that may or may not be offered by the manufacturer or retailer). 

The warranty only applies to defects already present when the goods or work were handed over - the issue must have been inside from the start, even if you only notice this later. The AK gives the example of a TV that works perfectly in the store, but the picture fails a few days later due to a loose connection that existed before the purchase.

The dealer must replace the goods or repair them free of charge. No costs may be charged for delivery routes, working time, or spare parts. You need to ask the seller for a replacement or repair, preferably via a registered letter, and set a specific and "reasonable" deadline (AK suggests 14 days). 

READ ALSO: 29 ways to save money in Austria (but still have fun)

You can claim your rights in court two years after delivery of smaller items such as appliances or cars and three years for property such as a house or an installed central heating system, for example. The burden of proof if the defect becomes apparent within six months of delivery is usually the retailer's.

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Vouchers are valid for 30 years

Buying a voucher for a specific experience in Austria with a validity of, for example, one year is most likely illegal. With some exceptions, vouchers must be valid for 30 years, or you get your money back.

The rules come after a ruling by Austria's Supreme Court, which confirmed in proceedings conducted by the AK that vouchers are generally valid for 30 years and that good reasons are required to shorten this period. 

READ ALSO: Repair bonus: How to get money back when electrical items break in Austria

"The shorter the validity period, the more valid the reason must be", AK said. 

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