Are there any statutory criteria under which a product must be recalled or other corrective action be taken?
There are no specific provisions regarding the criteria according to which a product recall or other corrective actions are determined. The producer or distributor of a defective product must take any measure to eliminate possible hazard from the product's use, as soon as any defect comes to its attention. These measures may vary and can include:
- warning notifications;
- retrospective instructions to consumers;
- invitations for servicing or updating the product in order to make it safe; or
- notifications recalling the product.
Further, competent authorities may proceed with temporary suspension or prohibition of product circulation in the market, withdrawal and revocation of products (Article 8 of Ministerial Decision Z3/2810/14/12/2004) in order to ensure product safety.
A product recall is an action taken in the event that no other measure would eliminate the danger. The recall may be either initiated by the producer or distributor of the product or ordered by the competent authority.
The Justice and Consumers Directorate-General of the European Commission published a guide on how to determine when a recall or another corrective action is required.
What rules and procedures govern notification of the product recall to government authorities and the public?
In general, notifications must be made to the competent authorities (Article 6(2) of Ministerial Decision Z3/2810/14/12/2004), as well as to the General Secretariat of Industry of Ministry of Economy and Development (Article 7(9) of Law 2251/1994 on Consumer Protection (the Consumer Protection Law)).
When producers or distributors become aware that any of their products presents a danger to consumers, they must notify the General Secretariat of Industry of the Ministry of Economy and Development immediately and without delay and any other competent authority depending on the type of the products at issue, for the prevention of any danger and hazard to consumers.
The notification must be made in a form provided by the competent authority and must include:
- information to identify the product;
- a complete description of the defect or the risk involved with the usage of the product;
- information to locate the product in the market; and
- a description of the actions taken by the producer or distributor and actions to be taken by consumers to prevent any further risk.
Annex II of Ministerial Decision Z3/2810/14/12/2004 sets out the procedures for the implementation of the Rapid Information Exchange System (RAPEX) and the Guidelines for Notifications. If the product has been marketed outside Greece as well, the RAPEX procedure may be followed. The system allows the almost simultaneous transfer of information on dangerous products within the European Union. Respective procedures apply especially to food and medicines.
The notified authorities may request additional information or order measures to be taken by the producer or distributor.
Repairs, replacements and refunds
What rules and procedures govern repairs, replacements and refunds for defective products?
The producer is obliged to compensate the consumer for any damage incurred due to product defects (Articles 6(1), (6) and (7) of the Consumer Protection Law). ‘Damage’ includes:
- death or physical injury; and
- damage or destruction, due to the defective product, of any asset belonging to the consumer, apart from the defective product itself, including the right to use goods, on the condition that:
- the loss from such damage or destruction exceeds €500; and
- the assets were intended to be and were actually used by the injured person for his or her personal use or consumption.
Damages for moral harm or mental distress may also be due in case of breach of the provisions of Article 6 of the Consumer Protection Law.
By virtue of Article 540 of the Civil Code, the buyer is entitled either to demand the repair of the purchased defective goods or their substitution (on the condition that such substitution or repair does not imply excessive and unreasonable cost for the seller), or to require a price reduction or to rescind the contract for sale of goods, unless the defect or the lack of conformity of the goods sold with any agreed qualities is minor. In addition, whoever acts unlawfully and by default causes damages to another party is obliged to compensate the injured party (Article 914 of the Civil Code).
Both the Consumer Protection Law and the Civil Code govern the provision by the seller of a product guarantee. In short, where such a guarantee was provided and the defect is detected and noticed within the guaranteed period, the producer or distributor is obliged either to repair or to replace the product at issue. Following the latest amendment to the Consumer Protection Law (through Law 4512/2018), sellers of a product are no longer obliged to offer an additional commercial guarantee. However, a commercial guarantee may be provided with an additional fee or in the form of an extension of the guarantee already provided, subject to express agreement between the parties.
The Consumer Protection Law provides that claims against the producer or the other persons liable for defective products are prescribed three years after the consumer became aware of the damage or should have been informed about the damage, the defect and the identity of the producer. Ten years after the product is put into the market, the rights of the consumer are time-barred (Article 6(13)).
The general limitation period within which a buyer, being a consumer or not, must exercise his or her rights from a contract for the sale of goods is two years. Tort claims are subject to a five-year limitation period starting from the day the victim became aware of the damage and the person liable to compensate him or her. The same action or omission may constitute a breach of contract and tort under certain requirements. Lastly, the general limitation period applying to claims is 20 years. Claims for unjust enrichment fall within this period.
What penalties apply for non-compliance with the legal provisions governing product recalls?
According to Article 13(a)(2) of the Consumer Protection Law, subject to the stipulations of the Criminal Code, the Rules Regulating the Market of Products and the Provision of Services and other special provisions, the following civil and administrative sanctions may be imposed by a decision of the competent minister, acting either ex officio or following a complaint:
- a recommendation to comply within a specified deadline, to cease the infringement and to refrain from it in the future;
- a fine ranging from €1,500 to €1 million. The maximum amount of the fine may be doubled if more than three fines in a row are imposed on a distributor; and
- if more than three fines in a row are imposed on a distributor, it lies at the discretion of the minister to order the temporary closure of the distributor's business for a period ranging from three months to one year.
Imposed sanctions may be generally readjusted by a joint ministerial decision.
A special set of sanctions may be imposed on distributors, suppliers, sellers or producers that fail to respond to consumer complaints (Article 13(a)(3) of the Consumer Protection Law). More specifically, the Minister of Economy and Development has the authority to impose the following sanctions:
- a recommendation to comply within a specified deadline, to cease the infringement and to refrain from it in the future; and
- a fine ranging from €500 to €5,000.
Further, the competent minister, taking into consideration the nature and severity of the violation, as well as its general repercussions on the consumer public, has the authority to publicise, through the press or any other means available, the sanctions imposed and the restraining measures taken with regard to the circulation of a product in the market.