Duty Free Stores and Consumer Rights

In this article, where we will examine the process of returning the products purchased from duty free stores and your rights as a consumer and the formation of duty free stores, first of all, let’s clarify the concept. The concept of “Duty Free” is an attraction of international travel.


Duty free shops are tax free retail outlets that you can find in airports, airplanes, ships or ports. The process for returning products purchased from duty free retail stores during your international travel may vary depending on the area where you shop.

Duty free is a store where you can purchase goods without paying the import, sales, value-added or other local taxes of the country where you are. It allows you to shop at international airports, marine terminals, cruise ships and international airlines without being subject to the local taxes of the country you are in, provided you consume the product you purchase abroad.

What are your consumer rights when it comes to returning or exchanging a product, which jurisdiction is responsible for a dispute arising from a purchase made in a neutral territory, how to return a product purchased in a duty free zone?

What is the legal aspect of duty free shopping? Let’s look at the answers to questions such as which jurisdiction has jurisdiction in the event of a denial or dispute during the return process, and what are consumer rights.

Duty Free Stores and Consumer Rights
Duty Free Stores and Consumer Rights

Consumer Rights

If the product you have purchased is defective, you have the right to make a claim within two years from the date of delivery of the goods to the consumer.

You have the right to request a refund or replacement of the goods with non-defective goods, a price reduction in proportion to the defect, or free repair. You may exercise any of these rights, and the seller is obliged to comply with your request.

According to Law No. 6502 on Consumer Protection, consumers do not have the right to exchange or return goods if the product is not defective in the case of sales made in sales places such as stores and workplaces, but the return or exchange may be possible only if the relevant company has made a commitment to do so.

If the seller claims that the product is not defective, you can apply to the Consumer Arbitration Committee after the two-year statute of limitations from the time you purchased the product. If we briefly examine what is defective goods and what is not;

What are defective goods?

The third part of the Law No. 6502 on the Protection of Consumers in Turkish Law on whether the product you have purchased is the defective goods includes the definition of defective goods. According to Article 8 of this law, defective goods are defined as goods that are not in conformity with the contract because, at the time of delivery to the consumer, they do not correspond to the sample or model agreed upon by the parties or do not have the characteristics that they should objectively have.

  • It is the seller’s responsibility to prove that the defective goods in your possession were not sold defectively.

If you believe that a product you have purchased in a duty free store is defective and you wish to return it, it would be in your best interest to consult an expert on the matter. It would be beneficial to obtain an expert opinion as to what the terms and conditions are for returning the product, what legal remedies you can pursue to resolve your complaint, or what you can do if your return request is denied.

Legal Basis for Duty Free Stores

From the perspective of the international economy, most countries do not impose local taxes on products to be exported in their tax systems. This is to ensure that the exported product is not disadvantaged in the country where it is to be consumed if the tax rate is higher than the tax rate in the country of consumption.

This practice is applied either by storing the products in warehouses and exporting them tax-free or by refunding the taxes when the products are exported.

This tax exemption is applied on international ships and aircraft or in transportation areas such as airports and seaports that are considered neutral zones, assuming they are consumed outside the country. Companies supplying such products can do so free of duties and taxes.

“Duty Free Sales Right” is a right granted for the convenience of passengers and for the purpose of bringing the products into the country, subject to a certain limit due to the difficulty of collecting small amounts of taxes.

 Customs warehouses are defined as places considered as special warehouses in the General Government Accounting Regulation No. 6221; it will be useful to address the concept of bonded warehouse to better understand the functioning of these stores.

What is a bonded warehouse?

A warehouse or bonded warehouse is a building or other secure area where dutiable goods can be stored, processed, or manufactured without payment of duties. It can be managed by public or private entities, but in the case of private management, a bond must be posted with the government.

Is it possible to return products purchased in duty free shops?

First of all, it should be noted that according to the above questions, Duty Free Shops are subject to the law under which they are operated by a private company or a public entity, as well as the customs and tax laws of the state that grants them tax exemption. In the case of the Republic of Turkey, the law under which duty free shops licensed by the Ministry of Trade are governed is Turkish law.

Status of Competent Courts in Disputes with Foreign Elements

The International Private Law and Procedural Law regulates the international jurisdiction of Turkish courts regarding the law applicable to private transactions and relations with a foreign element, as well as the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments. Even if duty free zones are established by a foreign private company, the courts of the consumer’s habitual residence will be competent in the existing disputes.

In the section on consumer contracts, Act No. 5718 on Private International Law and Procedural Law deals with consumer contracts in Article 26 and with disputes relating to such contracts in Article 45.

Article 26 expressly states that contracts for the supply of goods or services for non-commercial purposes shall be governed by the law of the consumer’s habitual residence. According to paragraph 2a of the same article, if the parties do not make a choice, the consumer’s habitual residence remains competent.

According to Article 45, the consumer may choose where to bring the action in the event of a dispute. Although it is known that Turkish courts are competent, the law clearly states that the competent courts for the lawsuits to be filed against the consumer is the consumer’s habitual residence.

Return conditions may vary depending on the location of the Duty Free store where you shop and the laws of the country to which the company is subject. If the product is not defective, the company will decide whether or not to exchange it. If you believe you have been victimized, you have the right to bring the matter before a consumer board in accordance with the laws of your country.

If you have a problem with a product you have purchased from a duty free shop in Turkey, it would be beneficial for you to seek the assistance of a Turkish lawyer experienced in the field of consumer rights in order to understand your rights and the remedies available to you.

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Juriste Baran İstanbullu

Att. Arzu Arslan KOLLAMA

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