Consumers who order goods that require delivery are legally entitled to expect the goods to be delivered within 30 days from the conclusion of the sales contract. This right is stipulated in Article 20 of the Consumer Rights Regulations.

However, the same article also states that the 30-day time window applies unless the consumer and the seller enter a different agreement where a specific date is agreed upon. This means that ordered goods must either be delivered by the agreed date, which should be clearly written in the sales agreement, or within 30 days from the conclusion of the sales contract.

In situations where these legal timeframes are not adhered to by sellers, consumers need to write to the trader or company and request that the ordered goods are delivered by a specific reasonable date. If the trader fails to deliver the goods within this additional time, consumers have the legal right to terminate the sales contract and claim a full refund of any money paid.

This time extension is not required in situations where the trader has already informed consumers that delivery will not be possible, or when the sales contract clearly stipulates that the agreed delivery period is essential.

Besides a delivery delay, consumers may also face situations where the goods ordered are lost. This may happen when goods are ordered online from foreign sellers. Should this happen, consumers are first advised to inform the seller that the goods have not arrived on the agreed date.

If the transportation of the goods was part of the sales contract, the trader is legally responsible to track the goods, and if it turns out that these are lost, the trader is then liable to either replace the lost goods or refund consumers.

Traders are also responsible for goods that are damaged while being transported to consumers. Whatever disclaimer the seller may include in the sales contract, if the purchase included the delivery of the product, such disclaimer may be considered as an unfair contract term and hence cannot be legally enforced.

Consumers are, however, still responsible to carefully inspect the delivered goods and to report any damages to the seller immediately. Most sellers allow a period of time during which consumers can inspect the delivered goods and report any visible damages. This timeframe is usually written in the sales contract’s terms and conditions.

While it is the consumers’ responsibility to observe this timeframe, consumer law considers as unfair contract terms that establish an unreasonably short period of time for notifying the trader of any defects. Consumers are also advised to not sign delivery notes confirming that the goods have been delivered in perfect condition if they have not had the possibility to physically inspect the goods.

The trader is liable to either replace lost goods or refund consumers- Odette Vella

In case of goods that arrive at the consumers’ homes damaged, these must be replaced by the seller free of charge. If the replacement requires transportation, any relative costs in this regard should also be covered by the seller. This also applies to situations where the goods delivered do not conform with what is written in the sales contract; thus, the importance of ensuring that the sales agreement includes a detailed description of the goods ordered.

When consumers order goods online or through a distance means of communication, they are legally entitled to a 14-day withdrawal period. During this time, consumers can change their mind about their purchase and cancel the sale. In situations where the ordered goods have already been delivered, consumers may re-send them back to the seller and request full refund of the money paid, including, if applicable, the cost of delivery.

In cases where the right of withdrawal is exercised, consumers may, however, be requested to pay for the direct cost of returning the goods to the seller unless the latter has agreed to cover these costs or has failed to inform consumers that they must pay for the return of the goods should they change their mind and opt to cancel the sale.

Unresolved disputes with traders concerning delivery issues may be reported to the Office for Consumer Affairs at the Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority. If the dispute is with a foreign trader that operates in another European Union member state, local consumers may contact the European Consumer Centre Malta for information on their legal rights and assistance.

Odette Vella is director, Information and Research Directorate, MCCAA.



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