Latvia: New procedure for settling consumer claims in Latvia from 1 January 2016
The procedure for making and processing consumer claims against sellers (or service providers) has changed. The new rules can be described as better balancing sellers’ and consumers’ rights. In addition, the scope of administrative supervisory tasks vested in the Consumer Rights Protection Centre is now reduced.
Amendments of major importance both for sellers (and service providers) and consumers are as follows.
Where the seller of a product issues no specific guarantee (certificate) the standard rule throughout Europe is that in the case of a purchase with a hidden defect a consumer may file a claim against the seller within two years after the purchase. This rule remains a cornerstone of consumer claims procedure. However, the law now requires that the consumer must not delay with a claim, i.e. it must be filed no later than two months after a defect is discovered. This means that, if the seller shows absence of such prompt action, then the claim can be rejected.
The first six months of the two-year „claim” period are now stressed as the most important. In particular, if a defect is discovered within the first half-year after the purchase, then it can be presumed that the product was already defective on the day of purchase. The contrary is for the seller to prove.
There were and still are four alternative options for a consumer in the case of a defective purchase: to claim (a) repair (b) exchange (c) reasonable price reduction; or (d) a full refund including return of the item to the seller. The recent change in the law explicitly notes that the first two types of claim (repair or exchange) must be discussed before the last two options. In other words, a consumer no longer has discretion to insist on a price reduction or full refund without allowing the seller to offer a repair or exchange first.
The period allowed for a seller to assess a claim by the consumer is now substantially prolonged. That is, the previous deadline of ten calendar days for answering a consumer claim is replaced by fifteen business days (i.e. approx. three weeks).
If negotiations between a consumer and a seller are unsuccessful, the Consumer Rights Protection Centre is an instance to turn to for and advice and support. However, since 1 January 2016 the Centre does not take binding decisions in individual cases (disputes) between a consumer and a seller. Instead, a dispute must either be resolved through the newly established out-of-court dispute resolution committee or, without the committee’s involvement, directly through the court.
Amendments to the Consumer Rights Protection Law (2015)
Law on Resolving Consumer Out-of–court Disputes (2016)