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In Sweden you have several protections as a shopper, some covered by EU law, some under Swedish consumer law, and some at the discretion of the individual retailer. Here are some of the most important, which are handy to brush up on ahead of a shopping spree.
Option to return (öppet köp)
If a retailer offers öppet köp, it means you can return an item after buying it, even if there is no defect. There is no legal requirement to offer this as an option, but many Swedish shops do. They will usually display information about öppet köp on signs in the shop itself and on the purchase receipt, and if you're not sure you can ask if it's offered (ideally, ask before you pay).
The time limit during which you can return your item varies between companies, but 14 to 28 days is a typical period. Around the Christmas season, many shops extend the returns period, and it may be possible to get gift receipts so that the recipient of a present can't see its price but can still return it in store if they wish.
You will almost always need to provide the receipt and return the item in its original condition (including packaging and/or labels) if you want to take advantage of this policy.
The right to return (ångerrätt)
Whether or not a retailer chooses to offer öppet köp, there are some cases in which you're legally entitled to change your mind about a purchase.
Under the Distance and Doorstep Sales Act, you have a 14-day period to cancel a purchase if it took place over the phone, online, or outside the seller's business premises (such as through door-to-door sales, at a sales party, or from a street vendor), and the item was worth at least 400 kronor.
This period starts the day after you enter the purchase agreement, and extends to 30 days when it comes to private personal pensions or life insurance policies. The seller has an obligation to inform you about the ångerätt and if they fail to do so, you have a year to cancel your purchase.
The postage of returning the item is not covered by this right, so you must pay to return it to the seller.
Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT
If you buy a product that is defective in any way, you can complain to the retailer. The easiest way to do this is usually to go back to the shop, with the product and the original receipt, and explain the problem with the item and the response you would like (for example, a refund, an exchange of an equivalent item, or repair of your faulty item).
But if you don't get the desired result at the shop, you may need to go down the formal route and submit a complaint (reklamera). You should do this in writing, as soon as possible after discovering the fault, and should keep a copy for your own records so that you can prove you contacted the retailer.
You are only protected in the event of an 'original fault', but that doesn't necessarily mean the item needs to have been broken when you bought it. An electrical gadget that suddenly stops working after a few months, or an item of clothing that falls apart in the wash (as long as you followed care instructions) would both normally be considered 'original faults'. Other examples are if an item you ordered was delivered in the wrong colour or size.
Under the law, faults that arise within the first six months after buying the item are considered to be 'original faults' unless the company can prove otherwise. If it's been longer than six months, you still have the right to complain, but will need to prove that the fault was original.
So what happens when you complain? As a first step, the company has the right to try to fix the problem as a first step, so they might offer you a replacement item or repair of your item. If they do this and they fix the problem, you aren't able to ask for a monetary refund, but you are entitled to one if they are unable to fix the problem.
Buying second-hand goods
Sweden has a strong tradition of second-hand shopping, and consumers are still covered by the Consumer Sales Act if shopping in this kind of store. For example, if you buy something secondhand, you have the right to return it if it is faulty and the shop did not clearly warn you about the defect before the purchase – it is the responsibility of the retailer to ensure goods are in saleable condition and that shoppers are made aware of any problems.
One big exception is if you are buying from a private individual rather than a company, as is the case at most flea markets (loppis). The Consumer Sales Act does not apply here, so you are not protected by the ångerrätt and cannot submit a complaint to the ARN (see below). You are however protected by the Sale of Goods Act, which means individuals cannot sell you a faulty item, but you need to lodge a complaint with the District Court if you think that's the case.
The best practice is to examine items very carefully if buying from a private person, and for bigger purchases make sure to keep records where possible. This could mean paying by Swish rather than in cash, asking for a receipt or, in the case of particularly significant purchases, drawing up a contract – there are templates here (in Swedish).
Different rules apply at the loppis. Photo: Tomas Oneborg/SvD/SCANPIX
Taking your complaint further
In the majority of cases, you'll be able to resolve your problem through communication with the company. But if the company won't admit fault, you can file a report with Sweden's National Board for Consumer Disputes (ARN), which will assess the case for free if a business has rejected or failed to respond to a complaint.
Your complaint must fulfill a few conditions: there are minimum price thresholds, depending on the type of item, and you must submit your claim to the ARN no later than one year after your first complaint to the company in question.
You submit the complaint online, by filling in a form on the website or sending an email, and the board says it takes on average about six months to assess each case.
Getting expert advice
There may be cases when a retailer refuses to offer you a refund or exchange you think you're entitled to, or other situations when you need more specialist advise. This is especially stressful if you're new to the country or still learning the language.
The good news is that many municipalities have a specialist consumer advisor who can give you detailed information about your rights and tips on the right course of action to take. They can also offer impartial advice regarding budget and debt planning. You can find details of the advisors here.
Another independent organization which offers help to consumers is Hallå Konsument, where you can read articles on different rights or ask for advice via e-chat, email, or telephone. The organization also offers advice on topics such as sustainable shopping, filing complaints, and other consumer issues.
In cases where you have a dispute with a trader, you can also contact the Consumer Ombudsman, which can represent consumers in disputes. This agency exists to protect consumer rights, so among other things it's responsible for ensuring companies follow the laws, and providing advice, which it does through Hallå Konsument.