Before you sign a contract
Any adult holding a valid driving licence can rent a car. To rent a car, you need an ID card or a passport. The contract may contain provisions restricting the lease capacity, for instance connected with age, driving experience, mileage limit or prohibition of travelling abroad.
Price and lease term
Cars are rented for a pre-defined period of time counted in days. Often also hours from which and to which the car is rented are defined. Therefore, the fee is calculated as a daily rate multiple. It is also possible to impose additional fees, for instance for exceeding the mileage limit.
A car rental contract should be drawn up in such a way to allow the consumer to read it and keep a copy with the driver’s and renter’s details and all the terms and conditions of lease. You should not rely on oral arrangements. If new arrangements are made at car pick-up, it is worthwhile to add them to the contract with additional signatures of both parties.
The contract should define the division of payments, for instance advance payment and the rules of its possible reimbursement. You should avoid signing blank documents.
A complaint can cover all the elements specified in the contract. When at car pick-up or during use problems arise that prevent normal use of the car or you notice irregularities in fee calculation, you should immediately report this to the lessor. Consumers have the right to complain in writing or by e-mail also after the lease contract ends.
Regulations do not stipulate how much time the trader has to respond to a complaint. Therefore, the commonly applied deadline is 30 days.
- The total rental price should include all anticipated charges (taxes, administrative fees, insurance, child restraint seat, etc.).
- You should keep a copy of the contract.
Buying a used car
Before you sign a contract
The credibility of any trader in the European Union, Norway or Iceland can be verified. Simply enter a company name into a search engine of the registry of economic operators of a given country (equivalents of the Polish National Court Register) and check when it was established and where it is located.
Professional help – scam
It is worthwhile to scrutinise ads on auction websites where people purporting to be experts offer trips and professional assistance when buying a car, for example: “Expert-translator helps buy a car in Germany”. An alleged expert offers his/her services as “buy now” and does not sign a contract with the buyer. He/she helps you find a car and negotiates the contract and checks the documents in a foreign language on the spot. Unfortunately, it happens that he/she is not a real expert and actually collaborates with dealer by translating the documents to the buyer falsely.
Assurances only in writing
Before paying, the consumer should make the seller confirm in the contract in writing that, for instance, the car was not in an accident, the odometer count, etc. This proof is necessary to seek redress in the event it turns out that the car has defects.
Servicing before purchase
Many disappointments can be avoided if you have a car checked at an independent garage before you sign a contract with the seller. The most common problems that many buyers discover only after the transaction is clicking, hidden defects, for example a damaged engine or the fact that the car was in an accident. If it is impossible to service a car before you buy it, you might at least want to go see the car with a friend who knows more about cars than you do.
The Civil Code does not specify the legal form of a sales contract, but for the safety of the buyer it should be drawn up in writing. In addition, the consumer should ensure that the contract includes:
- the seller’s details (company name, address, NIP number, KRS number, etc.),
- the agreed price of the car,
- the vehicle details (make, model, chassis number, registration number, year of manufacture, mileage),
- a detailed description of the car along with information on defects (it is important in the case of seeking redress for latent defects),
- a declaration that the car is free from liens, securities or rights of third parties,
- payment settlement method,
- signatures of the parties.
You have the right to complain about a used car when:
the car is not able to fulfil its function (usually it means it is damaged to the extent that prevents using it for its intended purpose); its features are contrary to those declared by the seller (clocked odometer or understated age); it turns out that it is pledged or third parties have right in the car.
Keep in mind that before you start seeking redress you need to collect evidence, because it is the buyer who must prove the defects. You can do this by going to the nearest garage and requesting an expert opinion (you can also ask an expert or an expert witness). What can the consumer require?
- To bring the vehicle into conformity with the contract (free of charge),
- To have the price reduced (in the case when repair or replacement would expose the buyer to excessive inconvenience or replacement or repair requires excessive costs),
- Withdrawal from the contract.
- The consumer should analyse vehicle documents closely (maintenance book, vehicle registration book, if it is registered),
- The consumer has no right to complain if he/she knew about the car’s defects when signing the contract.
Buying a used car from Germany
Used cars imported from Germany are very popular. In response to demand, many German dealers sell cars on-line (e.g. on www.mobile.de or www.autoscout24.de). In most cases, conversations concerning sale are conducted in English or with the help of an interpreter. When the seller and the buyer reach an agreement, the consumer is provided with a contract in German to sign.
Contract provisions may significantly differ from earlier oral arrangements. The seller may do this to shirk liability for lack of conformity of the goods with the contract (in Poland it is covered by warranty), thus conning the buyers (for example, he/she will be able to get away with selling damaged cars).
Case 1: Business-to-business transaction or private sale
In Germany the seller can exclude his/her liability resulting from lack of conformity of the goods with the contract in two specific situations:
- where the seller acts as an individual and the sale does not take place within the framework of his/her economic activity,
- where both the seller and the buyer act as traders (in the framework of their economic activity).
In this case the dealer uses one of the following provisions in the contract:
- “Händlerkauf”, “Händlergeschäft” – means that the buyer and the seller are traders (act in the framework of their economic activity, not as individuals),
- “Käufer bestätigt Gewerbetreibender” – the buyer confirms that he/she is a trader,
- “Kauf zwischen zwei Verbrauchern” – means that the buyer and the seller are consumers (they conclude the transaction as an individual).
If any of the above phrases is found in the contract, it is highly likely that the document would also include a provision: “Ohne Garantie” / “Unter Ausschluss jeglicher Gewährleistung” / “Ausschluss der Sachmängelhaftung”, which means without the right to complain.
Case 2: A vehicle with no defects or the buyer knows the defects
Used car dealers try to shirk liability resulting from lack of conformity of the goods with the contract also by using a provision which says that at the time of sale the car had no defects or damages, or worse: the buyer knew of the defects.
- “Verkauft wie gesehen” – confirmation that the sale was preceded by a visual inspection (the buyer buys the car aware of its condition).
- “Käufer bestätigt, dass er auf Mängel hingewiesen wurde und diese akzeptiert hat” – the buyer confirms that he/she was informed about defects (damages) and accepts them.
Trying to sell a car, the seller may make empty promises. If these are not reflected in the sales contract, the dealer may shirk fulfilment of oral commitments, invoking provisions like:
- “Nebenabreden bedürfen zu ihrer Gültigkeit der Schriftform” – special arrangements (clauses) must be made in writing under pain of nullity,
- “Ich bestätige, dass mir der Verkäufer keine Zusicherungen gemacht hat” – it means: “I confirm that I have not received any guarantees or assurances from the seller”.