When is Software Defective?

This article will show – with the soul of brevity – if a program is defective and what you generally can do about it.


Going into a store and buying mass-produced software is easy but not so when determining a defect. Usually, you will find the most important details on the package, the “system requirements”. If your system does not at least meet these criteria then do not expect the program to run. This will be your fault if you buy a program unsuitable for your personal technical standards. This applies even if a salesman recommended a program to you doubtfully. He/She would have to know your system.


If the program CD you receive does not work at all or if the installation program always ends in a “blue screen” that is a defect you can complain about.

Supposing you ordered a tailored program that just does not run as you expected and wished it to run, this will be a little bit more complicated because it really depends on exactly what you ordered and not just on your expectations. If the programmer does not do as ordered by the contract that is a defect and his fault. N.B. as soon as you accept the program as “finished” or “like ordered” then liability is generally barred.

If the package or program description claims the program will do this and that but practice shows only that and nothing else, your program is “defective” because it does not do what it promises – even though it might be running perfectly.

The program you just bought does not have an understandable manual? It is not in actual English but sort of a pigeon English. Following case law, the contract has not even been fulfilled. A manual is considered to be important because you can find out with it if it will meet your needs or not and how to use the program. This practically means that the vendor cannot demand payment or you can be refunded.

What to do about it? Generally, your rights are ruled in §§280, 433 BGB. You have the right to return the program and be refunded, get a new copy, or keep the version and negotiate a price reduction. If the merchant refuses to follow your wish and the product is really defective, then you will have to hire an attorney to fight for your rights.

Published on the old CMS: 2006/12/21
Read on the old CMS till November 2008: 197 reads

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