Protecting Your Consumer Rights

Dear Hadrien,
I recently bought a new HD television in a big electronics store. At home, I installed it and watched a DVD. But after two hours, the screen went black and I couldn’t get it to work again. When I found out that not only the TV, but now also my DVD player is defective, I went back to the store. However, they told me that they would not give me a refund and I could not complain because the invoice clearly states that the shop shall not be liable for any damage from the use of their products. Is that really true? The TV cost me almost VND18 million!

In Vietnam, consumers are protected under the law on protection of consumers’ rights of 2010. This law covers a broad range of issues, such as the protection of consumer information and the obligations of the State relating to consumer rights’ protection. It also includes a list of prohibited behavior of organizations and individuals towards consumers and it contains some detailed provisions on dispute resolution.


Under this law, a “consumer” is “a person who purchases or uses goods and/or services for personal use, family use or for the use of organizations,” the electronics shop where you bought your TV would qualify as an “organization trading goods for profit on the Vietnamese
market”. Finally, a “defective good,” which is an important term in your case, is defined as “a good that does not ensure safety to consumers and that is likely to cause damage to lives, health and property of consumers even though such goods are manufactured in accordance with current technical standard norms, with no defects being detected at the time the goods were supplied to the consumer”.

The law on protection of consumers’ rights makes it clear that a trading organization, such as the store where you bought your TV, shall be liable for damages in case any defective good supplied by them causes damage to life, health and property. It doesn’t matter whether or not the store knew about the defect or whether or not the defect was caused by them. Only if they can prove that the defect of the good could not be detected with scientific and technical knowledge at the time of selling the product to you, could they be exempted from the obligation to pay damages.

From your question, it seems that the store is trying to use its general trading conditions to reject your claim for compensation and to send you back home empty-handed. Again, the law is very clear about this. According to Article 16, general trading conditions that exclude liability of
trading organizations towards consumers or that restrict or exclude the consumer’s right to complain are invalid. So even if the store’s invoice contains such a clause, it has no merit.


Now that you know about your rights as a consumer in Vietnam, the next question is how to enforce those rights when the other party isn’t cooperative. The law provides for a dispute resolution procedure, including a few different options. The first, most informal, option is negotiation. As a consumer, you have the right to request the store to enter into negotiations with you about your complaint and the store shall be legally obliged to receive you and to negotiate with you for a maximum of seven days after your request. The second option involves the assistance of a mediator to be selected upon the agreement of both parties. These first two options shall not be open to you in case the dispute causes damage to the interest of the State, the interest of many consumers or to the public interest. Further, you may opt for arbitration in accordance with the Vietnamese Law on Commercial Arbitration. The final and most formal way to resolve the dispute would be to start a civil case in court. Often, when a consumer takes this final step to start court proceedings, a simplified civil procedure can be followed in which the burden of proof
rests largely with the trader and in which the consumer shall not be obliged to pay the court charges and fees in advance.

In practice, the last option may not seem very attractive to you. Indeed, the material and financial damage that you suffered may not be worth the costs and especially the time that it would take to start arbitration or court proceedings. My advice would therefore be to try one more time to get in touch with the store where you bought your TV. Make an appointment with the manager or write him a letter. Explain clearly what happened, what you expect from him and, if you feel this is appropriate and needed, share your knowledge about your rights as a consumer in Vietnam. Good chance they will suddenly be much more willing to work with you towards a possible solution. Another option, which you may have already tried, is to see whether your TV is still under manufacturer’s warranty. Good luck!

If you have any legal questions you want answered, send them to [email protected]

BioHadrien Wolff is a member of the Paris Bar, he has been practicing law in Vietnam for six years, currently as a partner of Audier & Partners. He specializes in banking and corporate law, regularly advising major foreign banks and assisting foreign investors in setting up joint venture companies with Vietnamese partners in sensitive sectors such as media, power and natural resources.

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