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Consumer law in Belgium


I bought a dress from a high end designer on Ave. Louise on Saturday. When I got it home, I decided I wanted it in a different color. I called this morning and asked if they had that color in stock and that I wanted to exchange the dress. (Only worn to try on, still has tags and I have receipt). Was told - rudely, of course - "No exchanges, no returns, no refunds". Needless to say, am waiting for New York corporate office to open so I can call them, but am aghast. I lodged a complaint with the ECC, but just wondered if anyone knew what the deal is, because I could only find articles that applied to ONLINE purchases.


This is Europe not the US.
In Europe generally - not just Belgium - you are expected to decide what colour you want BEFORE you buy.
Whilst not every shop will apply the rules rigidly, your rights are restricted to goods which are faulty or otherwise 'not fit for purpose'. Even then you only have the right to an exchange, a repair or a credit note and not to a refund.
This is a bitter pill to swallow for those from the US and other countries where exchange is common practice but, for Europeans, it is absolutely standard practice.

Jun 24, 2014 14:41

I don't understand what complaint you can have registered with the ECC. You bought the dress and, unless it was faulty in some respect that wasn't apparent at the shop, I doubt whether you would have the LEGAL right to demand a subsequent exchange, refund, etc., in any country. Such rights for ONLINE purchases grew simply because the buyer doesn't have the opportunity to inspect an item before completing a purchase.

Some retailers, as a commercial practice, do allow subsequent exchanges or even refunds of shop purchases but they are under no legal obligation to do so unless the advertise the facility.

Many "high-end" retailers who may have offered such facilities in the past sadly found that there are too many unscrupulous people around who saw it as a way of cheaply renting a top-fashion garment for an event, returning it subsequently "unused" for refund at a cost to themselves no greater than a professional dry-clean. Of course, there is no suggestion that you have done that, but a retailer has to set a practical policy and then stick to it. Even so, if the dress had been your twentieth "high-end" purchase there this year, you might just have found them a little more accommodating, but that again is commercial reality.

If you really want to return things for an exchange or full refund just because you change your mind then I suggest that you restrict your purchases to the Lands' End catalogue in future.

Jun 24, 2014 14:44

Lovely and helpful as ever. Now I remember why I stopped coming to this site.

Jun 24, 2014 14:56

I think Becasse's answer is very helpful indeed. Your questions was "[does anyone know] what the deal is, because I could only find articles that applied to ONLINE purchases" and Becasse has given you the answer "Some retailers, as a commercial practice, do allow subsequent exchanges or even refunds of shop purchases but they are under no legal obligation to do so unless they advertise the facility" which is 100 % correct.
In Belgium, if a shop allows you to return a purchase just because you have changed your mind, this fact is almost always very clearly displayed in the shop and also on the till receipt, because it's considered an extra perk and the shop wants to make a big deal of the fact. If there is no such mention, it is safest to assume that the store does not exchange or accept returns.
A complaint to the ECC is no use at all, because your rights as a consumer have not been violated in any way.

Jun 24, 2014 15:28

"just wondered if anyone knew what the deal is"

Yes, the deal is that if you buy something in a shop and it isn't faulty, then they have no obligation to replace it.

Jun 24, 2014 15:45

If this is just an exchange of completely new item, I do not see why they refuse to exchange it. I bought some clothes in H&M and Zara, not high end of course, but their normal exchange policy allows to exchange within a certain time frame (1 month?). I did not try clothes in the shop due to lack of time, tried at home and they did not fit properly. I took them back with original receipt and exchanged for a different size. No issues here.
Perhaps you can also try asking for info from this organisation:

Jun 24, 2014 16:05

MX, that is exactly the point: H&M and Zara do exchange and accept returns; this is their choice; they are under no legal obligation to do so. It's an extra perk they voluntarily give their customers.
However, the shop where R3 bought the dress does NOT exchange or accept returns. Again, this is their choice and there is no law that would oblige them to do otherwise. For whatever reason, this particular shop has decided that is is NOT willing to give this extra perk to their customers.
There does not exist any consumer organisation on earth that will tell R3 otherwise.

Jun 24, 2014 16:18

This is actually the same thing as applies in the UK. There is absolutely no obligation to exchange or refund something once you have bought it unless it turns out to be faulty or deficient.

I am sorry you don't like the answer, but that doesn't change matters.

Might I helpfully suggest you get over it?

Jun 24, 2014 16:37

Whatever. Called corporate in New York and they were appalled. Dress being exchanged via NY store. Should have just bought online in the first place because - by all means - let's give rights and privileges to anonymous people on a computer but not to a customer who actually takes the time to come into your shop and look at your merchandise, appreciate the craftsmanship and materials of a garmet and allows your sales person to earn a commission on the 700 euro dress she just sold. Shabby. Extremely shabby.

Jun 24, 2014 16:44

I quite agree with you. It may be the way things work in Belgium, but it doesn´t make it right. It does not happen like this all over Europe - in the UK Consumer rights are far better and you would certainly be able to exchange a dress within 28 days of purchase... I´m glad you were able to exchange your dress via NY store.

Jun 24, 2014 17:01