Whether you have been living in Georgia for a while or you’ve only visited as a tourist, you might be wondering what your rights as a consumer are. Consumer protection in Georgia has been a topic of discussion for quite some time, since the country previously lacked proper regulations.
Typically in business-consumer relationships, consumer protection holds high relevance. Often, businesses take advantage of the consumer’s needs and lack of flexibility, resulting in contracts heavily sided in the business’s favor. However, a new law aims to balance this relationship and enhance consumer protection in Georgia, by giving the consumer imperative rights that cannot be altered or revoked.
If you are a service provider, keep in mind that rights of the consumer set out in this article are duties and obligations for the traders.
In this article, we will discuss consumer protection in Georgia by identifying who is considered a consumer and what kind of rights these consumers have.
Who is a Consumer?
We can find the answer to this question in the Law of Georgia On the Protection of Consumer Rights, enacted in 2022. According to this law, a “consumer” is a person who establishes a legal relationship with a trader for the purpose of consuming the trader’s goods or services for private use.
On the other hand, a “trader” is defined as a natural or legal person who acts within the scope of commercial practice, as well as any other person acting in the name of or on behalf of a trader.
The goods mentioned above may include movable things, material goods placed in them, or items disseminated in a digital form.
This law covers both in-person and distance or off-premises contracts (essentially, any contract outside the business premises of the trader).
What are Your Rights as a Consumer?
Prior to concluding a contract, the trader is obliged to provide you with reliable and complete information in Georgian Language, as well as the language of the consumer, in a clear and understandable manner. They must disclose their identity and legal address, as well as the name, price (specifying both basic and additional charges), manufacturer, and the material characteristics of their goods and services. They must also provide relevant information about the terms of payment, conditions of delivery, and procedures for handling consumer’s claims.
In the case of a distance contract, the trader has an obligation to provide you with additional information about their factual address. More on this below.
Your Right to Receive Quality Goods and Services
If you buy a product and it turns out to be defective, don’t worry. You have the right to request either a price reduction, or its reparation or replacement free of charge within a reasonable time period.
When it comes to service agreements, you have the right to receive a service in accordance with the conditions provided by the contract. However, even if the time limit for provision of the service provided by the contract is violated or a defect in performance is identified, the trader has an additional reasonable period for fulfilling their obligations. After the expiration of this additional time limit, you will have the right to request a price reduction or to withdraw from the contract and claim damages.
Unfair Contract Terms
You have probably seen or signed contracts with pages and pages of conditions and clauses. Usually, out of all those clauses, only the initial pages are actually specific to your needs (i.e., they contain specific terms). The rest of the conditions are drafted in a general way that could fit almost any type of agreement. These are considered to be general or standard contract terms. Due to their complexity and length, standard terms are often overlooked or ignored, which can result in disputes between parties.
Very often, businesses do not even make the standard terms available to their consumers. They make a mere reference regarding the incorporation of those standard terms to the main contract. Conveniently, most of the unfair, or as we call them, “red flag” clauses, are part of those same standard terms.
Consumer protection in Georgia tries to fight such unfair dealings by heavily regulating the usage of the standard terms.
To illustrate, there are certain types of standard terms for a contract, which are deemed invalid even if you agreed to them by signing the agreement.
For example, a provision that entitles the trader to unilaterally change the features/characteristics of the goods or services without any reasonable grounds would be deemed invalid. Similarly, a provision that unfairly excludes or restricts the possibility of the consumer to file a claim against the trader is also considered to be invalid.
No legal obligations of a consumer arise from the invalid terms of a contract.
Considering the developments in technology and web communication, online dealings have become increasingly popular. The reason is very obvious – online dealings involve less paperwork, fewer expenses, and are more time efficient and convenient. This development made it necessary to harmonize consumer protection in Georgia with the trend of dealing remotely.
A distance contract is a contract signed between a trader and a consumer using one or more distance communication means, under an organized distance sale or service provision scheme, which does not require the physical presence of the consumer and the trader. However, please note that a contract is not considered a distance contract if a consumer and a trader have negotiated the terms of the contract at business premises and later concluded the contract using distance communication means.
Requirements for a Distance Contract
1. Obligation to provide information to a consumer
The requirements for providing information state that the information must be provided:
- In the national language of Georgia
- In writing/through a means of distance communication
- In a clear and understandable manner
2. Obligation to provide general information
The information listed below shall form an integral part of a contract signed between a trader and a consumer, and it may be modified only with the agreement of the contracting parties.
A trader is obligated to provide the following reliable and complete information:
- The name of services, the main characteristics of the services.
- The identity (name) and address (legal address) of the trader.
- The electronic mail, fax, and telephone numbers of the trader to enable fast and effective communication between the consumer and the trader (or, where applicable, the contact details of the trader on whose behalf a person acts).
- The price of the goods or services, specifying basic and additional charges (or, when the nature of a service does not allow the calculation of the price in advance, it should contain a rule for calculating the price and the information that additional charges may be payable).
- The terms of payment, the conditions for the delivery of the goods or services, the terms of the fulfillment of obligations, and the procedures for handling consumers’ claims by the trader.
- The term of validity of the contract, and in the case of a contract of indeterminate duration, or if the term of validity of the contract is extended automatically, the conditions of withdrawal from the contract.
- The obligations of consumers, the minimum time limit for the fulfillment of obligations, and the duration of effectiveness of such obligations.
- The conditions of withdrawal from the contract.
3. Additional requirements for providing information in distance contracts:
The requirements determined below do not apply to services whose prices are under 30 GEL (~15 USD).
In distance contracts, the trader is also obligated to provide information about:
- The location of the trader:
- The factual address of the trader (if it differs from the legal address).
- The factual address and identity of the trader on whose behalf it acts.
- The price of the services.
- The price of the goods or services, including the taxes (or, where the price cannot reasonably be calculated in advance, the manner in which the price is to be calculated).
- All additional charges where applicable, including delivery, transportation or postal charges, (or, where those charges cannot reasonably be calculated in advance, information on the fact that such additional charges may be payable).
- Where such contracts are charged at a fixed rate, the total price shall also include the total monthly costs. When the total costs cannot be reasonably calculated in advance, the manner in which the price is to be calculated shall be provided.
- The costs of using a means of distance communication for the conclusion of the contract (unless these costs are included in the basic rate).
- If a distance contract is concluded using an electronic means, the trader shall ensure that the consumer, when placing his/her order for goods and services, explicitly acknowledges that the placement of the order entails the obligation of the consumer to pay. If the trader has not complied with this provision, the consumer shall not be bound to pay.
- Information on restrictions (if applicable) related to the delivery of goods or services, as well as information on means of payment, shall be placed on trading websites in a clear and comprehensive manner, not later than the start of the ordering process.
Withdrawing from a Contract
If the received goods are defective and you have lost interest in the performance of the contract or the trader has failed to repair or replace defective goods within a reasonable time period, you have a right to withdraw from the contract. Additionally, you have the right to claim damages caused by the failure to perform the contract.
In case of distance contracts, the consumer has a right to withdraw from a contract within 14 calendar days without giving any reason. However, there can be some exceptions to this rule.
If you believe your rights as a consumer have been breached by any company or organization in Georgia, feel free to reach out. Our dispute resolution experts will assist you to preserve your rights and protect your interests.