How is a ‘product defect’ defined in your jurisdiction?
A product is ‘defective’ when either:
- it does not perform as can be expected based on its specifications; or
- it is not as safe as can be reasonably expected given certain conditions, particularly its appearance, its expected use and the time at which it is released.
A product cannot be characterised as defective only because another, more advanced product is later released in the market (Article 8(5) of the Consumer Protection Law).
Causation and burden of proof
How is causation of loss or damage established in relation to product liability claims and where does the burden of proof lie? Can this burden be shifted in any way?
The burden to prove the following rests with the victim:
- if a product is defective;
- the defect resulted in the damage (caused by regular or normal use of the product); and
- the causal link between the defect and the damage.
Jurisprudence and legal theory suggest that the burden of proof may be reversed where the plaintiff is unable to prove the defendant’s culpable conduct because the fact to be proven lies in the exclusive sphere of the defendant’s influence, for example, a consumer who has sustained damage from a defective product:
- who is not familiar with the production method for the product and therefore cannot prove the cause of the defect during the production stage or at the time of circulation on the market (which falls within the producer's liability domain); and
- who is unable to gain access to this information in order to meet his or her burden of proof obligations.
In such a case, the defendant is required to prove that it was not responsible for the occurrence of the injurious fact.
Legal bases for claims
On what legal bases can a product liability claim be brought?
Article 6 of the Consumer Protection Law provides for the producer's liability for defective products.
Articles 513 to 573 (and especially 534 to 558) of the Greek Civil Code on contracts of goods (contractual liability) require a direct contractual relationship between the parties where the buyer must not necessarily be a consumer. The seller is strictly liable for the sold product’s defects or non-conformity with agreed qualities at the time the risk passes to the buyer, the knowledge of the latter releasing the seller from liability under conditions, together with other reasons for such a release provided by law.
Tortious liability provisions under Articles 914, 925 and 932, in conjunction with Article 281 and 288, of the Civil Code also apply. Although the claimant must establish the defendant’s fault in tort claims, jurisprudence reverses the burden of such proof in favour of the claimant consumer, based on the ‘theory of spheres’ explained above, thus obliging the defendant to prove absence of fault to be released from liability.
Can a defendant be held criminally liable for defective products?
A defendant can be held criminally liable for defective products based on:
- the Greek Criminal Code;
- Law 4177/2013 (Rules Regulating the Market of Products and the Provision of Services); and
- other special legal provisions (Article 13(a)(2) of the Consumer Protection Law).
Which parties can be held liable for defective products?
The ‘producer’ – that is, the manufacturer of a finished product or of any raw material or component, and any other party that presents itself as a producer by putting its name, trademark or other distinguishing feature on the product – bears responsibility for the defect. Further, any person who imports (within the European Union) a product for sale, leasing or hire, or any form of distribution will be held responsible as a producer. Where the producer of the product may not be identified, each supplier of the product will be treated as its producer, unless it provides the injured person with information on the identity of the producer or of the person who supplied it with the product. The same applies to the supplier of imported products when the importer’s identity is unknown, even if the producer’s identity is known (Articles 6(2), 6(3) and 6(4) of the Consumer Protection Law).
Limitation of liability
Can liability be excluded or mitigated in any way?
Any agreement restricting or exempting the producer from its liability is void (Article 6(12) of the Consumer Protection Law).