When does the warranty for hidden defects apply?

Following the purchase of a good or product, if it does not function as expected, the buyer can invoke the legal warranty for hidden defects under certain conditions. In a ruling handed down on March 29, the French Supreme Court (Cour de cassation) set out these conditions.

Get a full or partial refund on your purchase

If the item purchased is defective, the warranty for hidden defects can be invoked provided the following three conditions are met:

  1. The defect must be hidden, not apparent at the time of purchase.
  2. The defect must render the product unusable or significantly reduce its usefulness.
  3. The defect must exist at the time of purchase.

When applicable, the legal warranty for hidden defects is mentioned in the General Sales Conditions (GSC). It can be used to obtain a full or partial refund of the purchase price, as well as compensation in the event of damage.

If all conditions are met, the buyer has 2 years from the discovery of the defect to claim under the warranty. To do so, he or she must send a letter with acknowledgement of receipt to the seller, indicating the type of reimbursement and compensation desired. The letter must be accompanied by supporting documents such as the delivery note and sales receipt. To prove the existence of the latent defect, we recommend that you produce repair certificates or estimates.

The seller must have knowledge of the use of the property

A recent case involved a company selling tartaric stabilizers for the electrostatic treatment of wine, which had purchased hydrochloric acid used to regenerate the resins in its demonstration units from a company engaged in the management, storage and distribution of industrial chemicals. A few months later, an association ordered several batches of wine from the company and complained that their properties had been altered. It then took the two companies to court, claiming the existence of a latent defect. The association pointed out that the molecule that had altered the wines should not have been present in products used for agri-food purposes.

The dispute was finally referred to the French Supreme Court, which did not agree with the association. In a ruling handed down on March 29, 2023, the judges affirmed that the association should have informed the companies of the wine's intended use in the food industry. Moreover, the general terms and conditions of sale clearly stipulated that the products in question were of standard industrial quality. Under these conditions, it is the buyer's responsibility to ensure that the product is suitable for the intended use.

Consequently, in order to invoke the legal warranty against hidden defects, the seller must be informed of the use to which the item will be put. If this is not the case, the buyer cannot be compensated for the loss he believes he has suffered.