A consumer contract is usually prepared by the trader, not freely negotiated. There is little disclosure of background information and so little possibility of effective due diligence. To make matters worse, the value of the goods or services is often quite low, making recourse to the courts an uneconomic and ineffective remedy.
Consumer protection law is less developed in Turkey than it is in many other countries.
The advent of many international visitors and businesses has also meant that the position is now less satisfactory. Some foreign-owned businesses based in Turkey may not operate to the level of ethics and honesty traditional in Turkey and, sadly, some local Turkish run businesses seem to have learned lessons from the unscrupulous practises of their worst international competitors.
Equally, international visitors – especially those from Europe and the United States – have expectations when it comes to consumer protection and are surprised and disappointed when they are not met in Turkey.
Having said that, Turkey has a consumer code, which governs the rights of consumers.
Consumer contracts are defined as contracts between a person selling as part of a business activity and either a private individual or a business not entering a contract for business purposes. What they are selling could be goods or services. Thus:
- A contract between you and your neighbour (two private individuals) under which you buy the neighbour’s car is not a consumer
- A contract under which you but a car from the local Ford dealer is a consumer
- A contract between a supermarket and ABC Architects Ltd under which ABC Architects Ltd buys a kettle for use in its staff room is a consumer
- A contract between ABC Architects Ltd and XYZ Developers Ltd under which ABC Architects Ltd agrees to provide architectural services for XYZ Ltd’s new development is not a consumer
A contract between two businesses where one of them is not entering the contract for the purposes of their business – for example, as goods to trade – is a consumer contract and so protected by consumer law. For example, if ABC Lawyers purchase sofas from XYZ Furniture Ltd, if there is a problem with the sofas this will be a consumer contract and the dispute will be subject to Consumer Rights.
What consumer protection rights does a foreigner have in Turkey?
Exactly the same as a Turkish person.
Rights under the general law
Most consumer protection issues arise out of contracts, whether written or verbal.
Under the general law of Turkey there is no distinction between a consumer contract and any other type of contract when it comes to the obligations of the parties. The only distinction concerns how any disputes are to be dealt with.
Specific consumer protection legislation in Turkey
There are various pieces of legislation in Turkey specifically aimed at consumer protection. They give the consumer various rights:
The right to return goods
Consumers may return any goods that they have purchased, within 14 days, without having to give any justification for their decision to do so. The goods must not be damaged.
They are entitled to a full refund.
This right does not apply to certain things such as underwear and perishables.
Internet sales and other ‘buying at a distance’ contracts
There is a specific regulation relating to ‘buying at a distance’ contracts: i.e. contracts for the provision of goods or services that are not made on the premises of the trader.
Who can help with a consumer protection issue in Turkey?
If you need help with a consumer protection problem in Turkey, there are two main options:
- You can contact the Consumer Commission and report the problem to them.
- You can take the matter up through your lawyer and the courts.
In either case, you should have first notified the other party about the nature of your dispute and given them a reasonable time (usually interpreted as 14 days) to put the problem right.
The Consumer Commission
Turkey has a special arrangement – the Consumer Commission – to deal with small consumer disputes, meaning disputes where the value is less than TRY3,000. In fact, disputes involving amounts less than TRY2,000 are dealt with by the Commission in the town concerned, and disputes involving amounts between TRY2,000 and TRY3,000 are dealt with by the provincial commissioner.
The Commission is set up by the provincial governor and comprises four people: one a lawyer, one from the municipal council, one from the local chamber of commerce or merchants, and one from a consumer organization.
Any issues falling within its jurisdiction are submitted to the Commission on a special form, which can be downloaded from its website.
The Commission then asks the business for a response to the complaint. It then decides whether the complaint is justified. There is no trial or public hearing.
This is a simple and quick procedure, which can resolve lots of small problems.
Special Court of Consumer Rights
Disputes involving more than TRY3,610 must be dealt with by the Special Court of Consumer Rights. These are not available in every town. If there is no Special Court of Consumer Rights in a particular place, disputes will go to the regular civil courts.
There are no court charges for cases brought before the Special Court of Consumer Rights.
The process followed in this court is similar to that followed in any civil court trial.
The Court’s powers allow it to order that the goods should be returned to the seller or that the price of the goods or services should be refunded or reduced. It cannot order general compensation (for example, for damage caused to your clothes by a defective washing machine). For that you would have to go to the ordinary civil courts.
How long does it take?
The Consumer Commission has a target of dealing with cases within six months of a complaint being received. The Commission may extend the period for another six months – but only once. The claim of a foreigner who is not resident in Turkey will be solved as a priority.
How much does it cost?
There is no charge for using the Consumer Commission or for using the services of the specialist Consumer Court.
If you are going to use your lawyer, seek an estimate of likely fees.