German law offers certain protections for online buyers, essentially the right to return the goods for a refund within 14 days and a certain warranty within 2 years of purchase.

I was under the impression (but I might be mixing it up with GDPR) that if an online seller advertises their products to customers in Germany, those laws would apply, even if the seller is outside the EU.

Now I had a seller blatantly tell me that those laws don't apply to them as they are outside the EU and that they don't offer any refunds whatsoever.

A cursory search suggest that they might actually be correct or at least that I don't have any recourse if they don't follow those laws?

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    If they are outside the EU, how did they "advertise their product" to you? How did you buy it? Did they use a German marketplace like Amazon, where they decided to opt in to selling "in Germany", or did you order it from chineseclones.ru because they sent SPAM to your email address?
    – nvoigt
    Commented Jul 28, 2023 at 5:22
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    @nvoigt They run their own web shop and ship to Germany. They ship from a warehouse in Germany actually, but they told me because the money was paid to a foreign company the consumer protection law does not apply.
    – AndreKR
    Commented Jul 29, 2023 at 13:18
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    Yeah, no, I agree with Dale then, having a warehouse in Germany is clearly targeting German consumers.
    – nvoigt
    Commented Jul 29, 2023 at 14:51
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    @AndreKR what country is the foreign company in? Perhaps you can have recourse to the consumer protection law in that jurisdiction. Was the payment made to the same company with which you concluded the initial contract or to an affiliate in a different jurisdiction? Does the seller or any affiliate have a German telephone number? Did the site you ordered from have a .de or .eu top-level domain?
    – phoog
    Commented Jul 30, 2023 at 14:32
  • @phoog Headquarter is in China, my credit card statement lists their Hong Kong branch as payee. They don't have a German phone number. Their fulfillment warehouse might, but I didn't keep the package with their address. Their website uses .com as TLD.
    – AndreKR
    Commented Jul 30, 2023 at 19:55

2 Answers 2


No, they are not exempt

Consumer protection laws (in general) apply to anyone doing business with consumers in that jurisdiction.

You need to follow that law and apply to the company for a refund in compliance with the law. If they refuse, you can report them to the German regulator who may, or may not, take action against them.

If you paid with a credit card, PayPal etc., once the company has broken the law, you can apply to them for a reversal of the charge. Similarly, most online platforms like eBay or Amazon will reverse the charge if you used them.


The EU has pretty clear rules on this in form of the Rome I regulation (reg 593/2008). In general, it allows the contractual parties to choose the law governing the contract. By default, the seller's law will apply.

However, there are more restrictions for consumer contracts. If the buyer is a consumer in the context of this contract, and the seller "by any means, directs such activities to that country or to several countries including that country", then the consumer's law applies. The parties can choose another law, but this cannot deprive the buyer from essential consumer protections in their own country's laws.

The question is then what it means to "direct activities to that country". Here, cases like C-144/09 (Hotel Alpenhof) provide clarity.

  • Mere availability of a website does not by itself demonstrate any intent to target a particular country.
  • However, other factors might be evidence of an intention to target customers in that country:
    • mentioning that country by name, e.g. "free shipping to Germany"
    • running online ad campaigns that target people in that country
    • not targeting that country specifically, but targeting an international clientele
    • using the language or the currency of the targeted country (e.g. accepting payment in EUR rather than CNY)

This means your hunch here is 100% correct, as far as European rules on consumer contracts are concerned:

I was under the impression (but I might be mixing it up with GDPR) that if an online seller advertises their products to customers in Germany, those laws would apply, even if the seller is outside the EU.

Having rights is different from being able to enforce them, though. For easier enforcement, it makes sense to prefer contracting with sellers that

  • are established within the EU, and/or
  • sell via a platform that provides a non-judicial enforcement mechanism.

You mentioned the GDPR. There is a direct connection here in that the GDPR applies to non-EU data controllers if they offer goods or services to people who are in Europe. The EDPB interprets this territorial scope to be aligned with the Rome I and Alpenhof criteria.

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    Apparently the company has a warehouse in Germany. They should therefore be relatively easily subjected to the demands of the German legal system.
    – phoog
    Commented Jul 30, 2023 at 13:44

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