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Supreme Court Decision on Consumers’ Optional Rights

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New Development

The decision of the 3rd Civil Chamber of the Supreme Court with File No. 2021/8941 and Decision No. 2022/656 (“Decision“) was published in the Official Gazette on 18 March 2022. The Decision includes essential remarks concerning the exertion of optional rights granted to consumers regarding defective products.

The Decision is available here (in Turkish).

What Does the Decision Signify?

The optional rights granted to consumers with respect to defective products are regulated under article 11 of Consumer Protection Law No. 6502 (“Law“). Accordingly, the consumer can exercise one of the following rights: a) withdrawing from the contract upon returning the product; b) requesting a reduction in the price of the product in proportion to the defect; c) having the defect repaired at the seller’s expense, provided that it does not require excessive costs; or d) replacing the product with an identical product that is free from defect, if possible. With the Decision, the Supreme Court clarified the parties against whom consumers can claim these optional rights.

The Decision relates to a consumer (defendant) who applied to the consumer arbitral tribunal with a request for the refund of a defective product purchased from a manufacturer’s (plaintiff) dealer. Following the acceptance of the application, the manufacturer brought the decision to the consumer court and requested its annulment by claiming that the defective product was purchased from a third-party dealer that is not operated by the manufacturer; hence, the optional rights cannot be exercised against the manufacturer. The relevant first instance court dismissed the case on the grounds that the consumer purchased the product from a sub-branch (dealer) of the manufacturer.

The Ministry of Justice requested the reversal of the decision for the benefit of law by stating that the court’s decision violated the procedure and the law as consumers can assert their optional right on withdrawing from the contract only against the seller and not against the manufacturer.

The Supreme Court reversed the verdict of the court of first instance for the benefit of law based on the following grounds:

  • As per the relevant provisions under the Law, the seller is responsible for fulfilling the four optional rights granted to the consumer, and only the right of free repair or replacement of the product with a non-defective one can also be asserted against the manufacturer and the importer.
  • The consumer can exercise the right to withdraw from the contract and request a discount at the defect rate only against the seller.

Conclusion

The Decision shows that consumers cannot exert the right to request (i) a refund by withdrawing from the contract and (ii) a reduction in the price of the product in proportion to the defect against the manufacturer and importer. The sales contract is concluded between the seller and the consumer, and the consumer pays the product’s price to the seller. Therefore, requests for partial or full refund must be directed only to the seller, who is a party to the sales contract.