The Product Liability Directive 1985 was introduced with the purpose of creating a strict liability for defective products. Article 1 of the Directive simply states “The Producer shall be liable for damage caused by a defect in his product”. The remainder of the Directive goes on to define the precise scope of this Article.
It is this Directive that gave birth in the UK to The Consumer Protection Act 1987.
Article 21 of the Directive states that “Every five years the Commission shall present a report to the Council on the application of this Directive and, if necessary, shall submit appropriate proposals to it.”
Regular reports have been produced since the Directive’s implementation as to its application. However, there has been no formal performance review. That is until now.
In its last report of 2011, the Commission concluded that there was not sufficient evidence of problems in the application of the Directive to justify a proposal for amendments.
However, there have since been discussions on the adequacy of the Directive to face the challenges raised by new technological developments. As such, on 10 January 2017 the European Commission launched a public consultation on the evaluation of the Product Liability Directive.
The Commission states that the aim of this consultation is to collect stakeholders’ feedback on the application and performance of the Directive on liability for defective products. In particular:
• whether and to what extent the Directive meets its objectives of guaranteeing at EU level the liability without fault of the producer for damage caused by a defective product
• whether it still corresponds to stakeholders’ needs
• if the Directive is fit-for-purpose vis-à-vis new technological developments such as the Internet of Things and autonomous systems.
The consultation consists of three online questionnaires addressed to producers, consumers and public authorities respectively and runs until 26 April 2017. Contributions received, as well as a brief factual summary, will be published by the Commission once the consultation has ended.