Q: Eighteen months ago, I bought a mobile phone. A couple of days ago, the phone display stopped working. I called the company where I purchased it from and was told that since the product is imported from the US, it only has a one-year warranty and is not covered by the standard European two-year warranty.

I searched the internet and found out that even though the product is covered by a one-year warranty, countries like France and Germany are enforcing a ‘sellers’ two-year warranty.

What are our consumer rights in Malta?

A: When, as consumers, we purchase a product we have specific legal rights. These protect us for two years from the date the product was delivered. During this time, if the goods bought do not prove to be in conformity with the description and specifications in the contract of sale, we may claim a remedy.

Such remedy can either take the form of free repair or replacement. If neither repair nor replacement is possible, or if opted for, may cause us significant inconvenience, we may ask for a refund of part of the price or revocation of the contract, which means a full refund.

These are your legal consumer rights and no one can take them away from you. They apply regardless of the country where the product was imported from by the seller. If the mobile phone was purchased in Malta, local consumer laws apply.

However, I would like to point out that even though the law gives you two years to claim any form of redress, it also stipulates that you must inform the trader about the lack of conformity in writing within two months from discovery of the defect.

Moreover, the law sets out the condition that if goods develop a fault within six months of purchase, the trader must accept these were faulty at the time of sale or prove otherwise.

If, on the other hand, you had the goods for more than six months when something goes wrong with the product, you can still ask for redress but, at this point, it is up to you to prove the goods were faulty at the time of purchase.

The only situations where the law does not protect consumers is when there is nothing wrong with the goods but the latter have simply changed their mind; or when customers caused the defect or were aware of the fault before they bought the product; or it was a fault that could have been noticed at the time of purchase; the problem was the result of normal wear and tear; or else the goods have lasted for as long as could reasonably be expected.

Besides these legal rights, traders may give consumers other benefits, such as a commercial guarantee. This can be given for any period of time the trader decides.

It should, however, be pointed out that when a commercial guarantee is given it should never take away or diminish the statutory rights consumers are entitled to.

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