Canvassing: uninformed customers do not have to pay for services provided

Any professional approaching a customer must inform them of their right of withdrawal. Failing this, the customer is entitled to refuse payment for services already rendered. The Court of Justice of the European Union issued a reminder of this in a ruling on May 17.

The facts

In this case, in October 2020, a private individual had verbally concluded a contract with a company for the renovation of his home's electrical installation, without the company having informed him of his right of withdrawal. Following completion of the work, the company presented the customer with the corresponding invoice, which the latter refused to pay.

The professional took the case to court to obtain payment for the service provided to his customer, arguing that the exclusion of a right to such payment on the grounds of a breach of the obligation to provide information would constitute a "disproportionate sanction".

The customer, for his part, argues that the company failed to inform him of his right of withdrawal and therefore has no right to payment of the price of the service provided.

In the end, the courts partially ruled in the customer's favor, stating that he was not liable for any costs for work carried out before the end of the 1-year cooling-off period. However, the judges also questioned whether the fact that the work had not been paid for meant that the customer had not benefited from "unjust enrichment".

A position of weakness for the customer

The CJEU gave a very clear answer to the preliminary question put by the court, firstly reiterating the importance of the right of withdrawal. The Court confirms that in the event of the conclusion of an off-premises contract, in the context of canvassing, payment for services provided by the professional is not due once the consumer exercises his right of withdrawal. In accordance with articles L221-23 to L221-25, the consumer has 14 days to withdraw from a distance or off-premises contract, or from a cold call.

On the question of unjust enrichment on the part of the consumer, the CJEU points out that canvassing takes place at the home or workplace of the consumer, who is then in a position of weakness insofar as he " may be subject to possible psychological pressure or be faced with an element of surprise, whether or not he has solicited the visit of the professional ".

With this response, in a ruling handed down on May 17, 2023, the Court of Justice of the European Union is promoting consumer protection and making professionals accountable for failure to comply with their obligation to provide information on the consumer's right of withdrawal. This should encourage professionals to comply with their obligations when canvassing. Indeed, in this situation, no sum can be claimed from the customer.