In the field of distance selling, the consumer beneficiates from a seven days withdrawal period starting from the date of receipt of the good. However, Article L. 121-20-2 of the Consumer Code provides for a few exceptions to the exercise of this right, in particular in the case of goods specifically produced at the consumer’s request or that are clearly personalized.
In a ruling dated 20 March 2013, the first civil division of the French Supreme Court laid down, for the first time, the criteria for goods to qualify as “clearly personalized”, thus preventing the exercise of the right of withdrawal. For a good to qualify as “clearly personalized”, either its nature or its intended use must be modified (Cour de Cassation, civile 1ère, 20 March 2013 – no. 12-15.052).
In that case, two persons had made a distance purchase of two motorcycles from a merchant. The latter had delivered them to the buyers together with their registration certificate made out in their name. After having taken delivery of the two vehicles, the buyers exercised their right of withdrawal. The seller opposed this right, arguing that the right of withdrawal does not apply to the supply of a clearly personalized good such as a vehicle that was the subject of administrative registration at the time of the sale in the name of the buyer, the registration certificate constituting an indispensable accessory to the good sold. In response, the buyers sued the seller before the court of Chambéry to seek a refund of the purchase price. The French Supreme Court sided with the lower court which had disallowed the seller’s argument, observing that the motorcycles sold pursuant to a distance contract had merely been registered, and that such registration did not modify their nature or intended use.