When buying goods and services, it is expected that the goods purchased:
- match the description provided by the seller;
- have the same qualities as the goods which the seller displayed as a sample or model;
- are fit for the purpose for which similar products would generally be used; and
- perform to the standard normally expected from such products.
If the consumer had informed the seller that he needed the product to perform specific functions, then the product offered by the seller must meet the consumer’s declared needs. There are exceptions to this general rule, such as where the consumer was, or should reasonably have been aware of the lack of conformity, or where the lack of conformity has its origin in materials supplied by the consumer.
The seller is liable to provide a remedy in the case of a lack of conformity within two years from the date of delivery, as long as the consumer notifies the trader of any lack of conformity in writing within 2 months from the date on which the consumer detected such lack of conformity. When the lack of conformity emerges within the first 6 months of the delivery, it shall be presumed that it has existed at the time of delivery unless proof to the contrary is furnished or unless this presumption is incompatible with the nature of the goods purchased.
In the case of a lack of conformity, the consumer is entitled to have the product brought back into conformity free of charge either by repair or replacement within a reasonable time and with the least inconvenience to the consumer. Where this is not possible, or if the situation is not remedied within a reasonable time, the consumer is entitled for an appropriate reduction of the price or for the contract of sale to be withdrawn.
The Consumers Affairs Act (Chapter 378 of the Laws of Malta), previously also provides for the possibility of commercial guarantees. These are additional measurement to that provided by default at law and cannot adversely affect the general 2-year warranty provided by the law. The commercial warranty protects the consumer under the conditions which are laid down in the guarantee document.
The Product Safety Act (Chapter 427 of the Laws of Malta) mandates that products offered to consumers, whether at a price or free of charge, must be safe. In this context, safe means that under normal or foreseeable conditions, the product does not present any risk or only minimal acceptable risks (as further defined in the Act). The provisions of the Act shall apply equally to products manufactured in or imported into Malta.
The Act places an obligation on producers to place only safe products on the market. Producers and importers must also provide consumers with all the relevant information regarding any minimal risks which the product may present, must take all precautions necessary to prevent or minimise such risks and where necessary, must withdraw a product from the market. Distributors must not supply products which they know or should reasonably know, on the basis of the information in their possession as practitioners in the relevant trade, business or occupation, do not comply the requirements of the Product Safety Act.
The CE mark is an external symbol on a product which confirms that the product conforms to the requirements of the relevant European legislation. The Product Safety Act (mentioned in the previous paragraph), requires manufacturers to affix the CE mark on certain non-food products, such as low-voltage electrical equipment, toys, personal protective equipment, construction products, machinery, and similar items.
The Price Indication Regulations (Chapter 378.09 of the Laws of Malta) mandate that traders are required to clearly indicate and show the price of the products they are selling, inclusive of VAT. The price shown must not be vague or confusing. In the case of goods sold by unit weight or volume, both the price of the product (i.e. if it was pre-packaged) and the price per unit (that is per kg, litre, metre or metre cubed) must be shown. A receipt must always be given to the consumer. Clearly, the price indicated must be the same as that charged.