Product safety and liability

Safety and environmental

What are the most relevant automotive-related product compliance safety and environmental regulations, and how are they enforced? Are there specific rules for product recalls?

Technical and quality standards regarding safety and emissions that must be met for the Mexican market are contained in NOMs. Some of the most relevant NOMs include:

  • NOM-194-SCFI-2015 will be regulating minimum security measures for new light vehicles, including provisions on the technical requirements for many parts of the vehicle such as tyres, ABS, braking lights, reverse lights, evaluation methods and verification procedures;
  • NOM-042-SEMARNAT-2003, NOM-044-SEMARNAT-2006 and NOM-076-SEMARNAT-1995 regulate vehicle emissions such as the maximum emission levels for vehicles, evaluation methods and verification procedures; and
  • NOM-079-SEMARNAT-1994 and NOM-082-SEMARNAT-1994 regulate the maximum noise level for vehicles and the evaluation method thereof.

There are also regulations on security measures such as marking of doors and frames so that the vehicle is equipped with adequate and accessible information to protect consumer rights and avoid theft. Additionally, there are many safety measures regulating technical specifications on seatbelts, tyres, brakes and other vehicle parts in order to protect consumers from bodily harm. These standards are generally issued in such a manner as to be aligned with international regulations. Manufacturers must be frequently updated on any new NOMs and additional requirements for them to comply and be able to continue business operations.

As an outstanding environmental measure applicable in the Mexico City Metropolitan Area, there is the ‘Hoy no Circula’ programme, which prohibits driving certain vehicles on certain days, depending on the results that such vehicles achieved in a mandatory contaminants emissions test. This measure only applies to the Mexico City Metropolitan Area.

Recalls are handled by the Consumer Protection Bureau through the issuance of a non-binding recall request issued to the relevant party to recall certain products. These recall requests are standard and in case of non-compliance the consumer protection authority may assist the affected parties in filing suit. Additionally, manufacturers may recall defective products, which is common in big-scale recalls with a global reach.

In 2018, more than 122,000 FCA Mexico vehicles and five Volkswagen vehicles were recalled for possible failures by the Consumer Protection Bureau.

Product liability and recall

Describe the significance of product liability law, and any key issues specifically relevant to the automotive industry. How relevant are class actions or other consumer litigation in product liability, product recall cases, or other contexts relating to the automotive industry?

Product liability law in Mexico for defective products is based only on the fault of the manufacturer or any other person in the production chain whose actions or omissions result in damage. If direct damage is not caused, and there is no direct link between the damage and the alleged guilty party, it will be difficult to support liability claims.

Mexico’s civil law considers product liability as an extra-contractual obligation (similar to tort, in common law countries). The law provides that whoever has acted illegally or against good custom, and has caused damage to another must repair the damage caused. Therefore, liability can only be imposed if damages were caused by such breach. The state does not operate any schemes of compensation for particular products but consumers may be able to file a claim if the defective product damages the individual and causes civil liability. These events are ruled by the Civil Code (federal or local).

Mexican law does not provide an obligation to recall defective products. But there are many companies with recall policies for defective products or failures that are used as a quality standard and as a practical measure to prevent future damages to consumers.

Although the Mexican legislation does not foresee recalling products as necessary, failure to do so may result in a possible liability claim based on negligence. A possible defence against any liability claims exists if the accused party can prove it has complied with all legal and technical specifications for a product.

In such regard, collective actions are available in Mexico to prosecute consumer clams; these actions may also be brought directly by governmental agencies such as the Consumer Protection Bureau.