Consumer

The seller’s liability scheme depends on whether the buyer is a consumer or not. The definition of a consumer is contained in Article 22^{1} of the  Civil Code: “a consumer is a natural person concluding a legal transaction with a trader, the scope of which is not directly related to that person’s business or professional activity.”

 

It follows from the above definition that only a natural person (an individual) can be a consumer. Thus, the consumer status will never be enjoyed by commercial companies, associations, foundations (even if not engaging in business activity). In the case of individuals it is necessary to determine whether the purchase is directly related to that individual’s business or professional activity. An individual cannot rely on its consumer status if they purchase an item to be used for professional purposes. In their turn, items purchased for private purposes will be bought in the capacity of a consumer, even if the buyer runs a business.

 

An example: A lawyer running his own firm (sole proprietor’s business) purchases computer hardware. If that hardware is used in the firm, then the lawyer cannot be treated as a consumer in the context of this transaction. It does not matter that the lawyer’s business is unrelated to computer hardware (the lawyer does not need to be an expert in computers). On the other hand, when that same lawyer buys a PC exclusively for home use, they are a consumer. Even more so, every individual who does not run a business is a consumer.

 

In practice, the decisive factor could be whether or not the buyer asked the seller for an invoice. In fact, issuing fiscal receipts or VAT invoices covering sold goods is a matter of accountancy and does not affect the scope of the seller’s civil law liability. However, requesting an invoice to be made out to the buyer’s business practically excludes the goods in question from consumer protection rights. If the buyer wished to demand such protection at a later stage they would have to admit that they have misled tax authorities.

 

The definition quoted above further indicates that a consumer is only an individual who makes a transaction with a  trader. One cannot rely on the consumer’s status if the other party to the transaction is not a  trader.

 

If the buyer is a consumer, the liability for defects is subject to certain modifications. In such a case, a number of standard rules are replaced with other rules, more favorable to the consumer. The differences relate exclusively to  warranty liability, as  guarantee liability is governed by standard provisions.