General climate and recent developments
State of legal development
In general terms, how developed are the product regulation and liability laws in your jurisdiction?
The Greek legal framework on consumer protection is one of the most characteristic examples of the effect of EU Law on the national legal order. Greece has implemented a set of laws that are designed to ensure consumer rights as well as fair trading, competitiveness and market intelligence. Further, the recent enactment of Law 4512/2018 aims to harmonise the rules and remove legal uncertainty with respect to product regulation.
Have there been any notable recent developments in relation to product liability law and product safety law in your jurisdiction, including any regulatory changes and case law?
Law 2251/1994 on Consumer Protection (the Consumer Protection Law) had been gradually updated through the incorporation of the EU Directives 93/13/EEC, 2005/29/EC, 99/44/EC and 2011/83/EC by means of fragmentary amendments. This resulted in overlapping provisions and conflicting definitions that weakened the purpose of the provisions (ie, consumer protection) and led to legal uncertainty. This in turn led to a recent legislative initiative and the amendment of the Consumer Protection Law through the enactment of Law 4512/2018, which should come into force two months after its publication in the Governmental Gazette on March 17 2018. Law 4512/2018 aims at providing clear definitions and harmonising existing legislation (Law 2251/1994) in order to ensure equal competition levels between domestic and foreign providers and to strengthen consumer confidence in online markets.
More specifically, the core changes of Law 4512/2018 to the existing legal framework are as follows:
- Uniform definitions are adopted with respect to the terms ‘consumer’, ‘supplier’, ‘seller’ and ‘producer’.
- The legal provisions on the conclusion of distance contracts are further updated.
- The free two-year legal guarantee for all goods is reiterated. However, sellers are no longer obliged to offer an additional commercial guarantee. The latter may be provided with an additional fee or in the form of an extension of the existing guarantee, subject to express agreement between the parties.
- The notification procedure and the process of submission of complaints to the competent authorities have been revised.
- The relevant provisions on the producer’s liability for defective products are updated and the general principles of the ‘CE’ marking are thoroughly defined.
- The legal provisions regarding advertisement and unfair commercial practices are unified.
- The provisions with respect to subsidising consumer associations are updated.
- The penalties imposed for non-compliance are re-determined. In addition to the supplier's liability, the producer’s or seller's liability is also expressly provided by law.
What primary and secondary legislation governs product safety and liability in your jurisdiction?
Product liability issues arising from the sale of products are regulated under the provisions of Articles 534 to 558 of the Greek Civil Code. Further, Directive 85/374/EEC (as amended by Directive 99/34 EC) on liability for defective products was transposed into Greek law through Law 2251/1994 on Consumer Protection (the Consumer Protection Law), further amended by Laws 3587/2007 and 4512/2018; the Product Liability Directive sets the main product liability rules in Greece. Furthermore, Ministerial Decision Z3/2810/14/12/2004 implemented Directive 2001/95/EC on general product safety. Any changes to be implemented on March 17 2018 have been taken into consideration here.
Regulatory and enforcement authorities
Which government authorities regulate and enforce product safety and liability laws in your jurisdiction, and what is the extent of their powers?
There are specific authorities regulating product safety (defined in Ministerial Decision Z3/2810/14/12/2004 and Article 7(11)(a) of the Consumer Protection Law). These authorities bear the responsibility for ensuring that products comply with the general safety requirement and act taking into consideration the imminent risk, according to the principle of precaution (Article 2 of the ministerial decision).
The competent authority is the General Secretariat for Consumers of the Ministry of Development, with the exception of specific products for which other competent authorities are appointed, such as:
- the General State Laboratory of the Ministry of Finance;
- the National Agency for Medicines;
- the Ministry of Health and Social Solidarity; and
- the Ministry of Transport and Communications.
Annex IV of the ministerial decision provides for specific authorities in a non-exhaustive list depending on the type of product.
Article 6 of the ministerial decision specifies the powers of the competent authorities that will ensure that producers and distributors comply with their obligations, so that the products that they place in the market are safe. The safety control of consumer products is assigned to the competent authorities through their competent services department or the corresponding services department of the regional authority or as decided by the services, assisted by laboratories where appropriate. The General Secretariat for Consumers of the Ministry of Development is the contact point with the European Commission for the implementation of the rapid information exchange system for non-secure products.
When taking or deciding to take urgent measures to prevent, restrict or impose special conditions on, the sale or subsequent use of a product or a set of products throughout the Greek territory due to serious and immediate risk to the health and safety of consumers, the competent authorities must urgently inform the General Secretariat for Consumer Affairs of the Ministry of Development so that it informs the European Commission in turn. In cases of unsafe products imported from or exported by third countries, the competent authorities must immediately inform the competent customs authorities.
The measures to be adopted by the competent authorities include:
- performing product safety checks;
- retrieving samples for safety tests;
- issuing warnings; and
- suspending temporarily or prohibiting product circulation in the market or withdrawing or revoking the licence for dangerous products already placed on the market.
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).
What is the procedure for filing a product liability claim before the courts in your jurisdiction?
Private law disputes, including product liability claims, are tried exclusively by civil courts. District courts are competent to examine claims up to €20,000, one-member first-instance courts are competent to examine claims between €20,000 and €250,000 and three-member first-instance courts are competent to examine claims exceeding €250,000 (Articles 14 and 18 of the Greek Code of Civil Procedure).
Can the court issue interlocutory orders or judgments in product liability cases? If so, what rules and procedures apply?
Yes, Article 682(ff) of the Code of Civil Procedure (interim measures) applies in case of imminent danger (urgency) and risk of irreparable damage. However, jurisprudence holds that such cases are usually resolved through ordinary proceedings.
What pre-trial disclosure/discovery mechanisms are available in product liability cases, if any?
There are no ad hoc pre-trial discovery mechanisms with respect to product liability regulation. Each litigant has to disclose all supporting documentation with its pleadings and may request from the court to disclose the documentation in the possession of the opponent or a third party under certain conditions (Article 450(ff) of the Code of Civil Procedure and Articles 901 to 903 of the Civil Code).
However, injunctions proceedings are generally available to preserve evidence from risk of loss or impairment. Therefore, a special procedure is provided in the Code of Civil Procedure whereby a party may request the court to order the examination and preservation of evidence prior to the main proceedings (Article 348).
What evidence is accepted to support claims in product liability cases? What formalities apply to evidence submission?
If the court finds that the issues to be proven require special scientific qualifications, it may appoint experts who submit their reports at the time ordered by the court, adjourning the hearing for that purpose (Articles 368 to 392 of the Code of Civil Procedure). The parties may appoint technical advisers (one each) and also submit expert/technical reports (unlimited amount).
Under what circumstances will the court appoint an expert to assist it in examining the merits of the case? What rules and procedures apply?
The court has the power to appoint technical specialists to assist the judge and assess the evidence presented by the parties if the court finds that the issues to be proven require special scientific qualifications (Articles 368 to 392 of the Code of Civil Procedure). The experts may rely on the information provided in the case file or request clarifications from the parties or third parties.
Can the parties rely on expert witness testimony to support their claims? If so, what rules and procedures apply?
According to the new procedural rules, no oral hearing takes place (unless the court finds that there are extraordinary reasons to do so); witness testimonies are therefore provided through sworn affidavits.
The parties are also entitled to appoint one technical adviser each, who reads the expert report, submits his or her opinion and raises relevant questions to the court expert. The opinion of the court-appointed expert is not binding. The parties may submit to the court an unlimited number of expert/technical reports supporting their allegations. In practice, the reports of party-appointed experts are of lesser evidentiary value than those of the court-appointed ones.
Factual or expert witnesses appointed by the parties, may – instead of giving oral evidence before the court – give a sworn affidavit before a judge, a notary public or, if outside Greece, before a Greek consular authority (under Articles 421 to 424 of the Code of Civil Procedure). An affidavit from a previous case can be used as a relevant testimony, but an ad hoc testimony is given more weight according to the applicable rules of evidence.
Are class actions or any other collective proceedings available for product liability claims in your jurisdiction? If so, what is the procedure for their formation and what benefits do they afford claimants? Are class actions formed on an opt-in or an opt-out basis?
Class action proceedings, collective claims and class actions are not generally provided in Greek law. Article 10(1) of the Consumer Protection Law introduced an exceptional rule, providing that consumer associations (constituted as unions) aiming at protecting the rights and interests of consumers are entitled to represent consumers in court and file representative collective actions.
In particular, a consumer union of at least 500 members that has been duly registered in the Registry of Consumer Unions for at least one year may file an action of any kind for the protection of the general interests of consumers, provided that the illegal behaviour in question infringes the rights of at least 30 consumers, regardless of whether they are members and non-members of such consumer union.
Under this framework, consumer associations can bring four types of class action:
- actions to prevent and stop any supplier from behaving unlawfully;
- actions requesting reparation for moral damages. In such a case, the court, in order to award indemnification, takes into consideration for each amount the extent to which public order is harmed by the unlawful conduct, the size of the defendant supplier’s business, the annual turnover, as well as the needs for the general and specific prevention (of such behaviour);
- interim measures (injunctions) in order to secure consumers’ interests until an enforceable decision has been granted; and
- actions in order to recognise the right of restitution of the damages that the consumers had suffered due to the supplier’s unlawful conduct.
What rules and procedures govern appeals of court decisions?
Judgments issued by a first-instance court may be contested before the appellate court of jurisdiction. An appeal can be filed not only by the defeated party, but also by the successful party whose claims were only partially accepted by the court. A cassation may be filed against any appellate court decisions before the Supreme Court.
Statute of limitations
What is the statute of limitations for filing product liability claims?
Claims against the manufacturer, where a product has a defect, are time-barred for three years after the claimant became aware of the damage incurred, the defect and the identity of the manufacturer (Article 6(13) of the Consumer Protection Law) and 10 years after the release of the specific product, the rights of the party incurring the loss against the producer are written off.
However, where other statutes grant the consumer a more favourable statute of limitation, the latter prevails. In this respect, pursuant to the tort provisions of the Civil Code, a claim arising from an unlawful act (tort) will be prescribed at the lapse of five years from the time the injured party has had knowledge of the prejudice and of the person liable for compensation. The provisions for the sale of goods stipulate that 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. The service of a lawsuit interrupts the limitation period.
What is the typical duration of proceedings in product liability cases?
A court hearing should take place six to seven months after the filing of a lawsuit (Articles 215 and 237 of the Code of Civil Procedure, as amended by Law 4335/2015). A decision is issued on average six to eight months after the hearing, provided that the initial hearing is not adjourned.
Costs, fees and funding
Can the successful party to the litigation recover court and attorneys’ fees and any other related expenses from the losing party? If so, what rules and procedures apply?
The unsuccessful party is required to pay both court and legal costs. Court expenses are “only judicial and extrajudicial expenses that were necessary for the trial” and include:
- stamp duties;
- judicial revenue stamp duty;
- attorneys’ minimum fees set by the Greek Lawyers’ Code;
- witnesses’ and experts’ expenses; and
- the successful party’s travelling expenses so as to attend the hearing.
The expenses incurred due to the party’s own fault or excessive prudence are not recoverable (Article 189 of the Code of Civil Procedure).
The award of expenses in whole or in part, and payment by the unsuccessful party, is at the court’s discretion. Greek courts tend to award costs that are substantially lower than those actually incurred. However, depending on the success or failure of the various claims raised by each of the parties, the court may allocate costs between the parties. If there are more defendants and they lose the case, the court may either order them to pay an equal share of the claimant’s attorney and court fees or allocate such fees to the defendants proportionally, according to their liability. Further, the court may set off the attorney and court expenses between the parties if the interpretation of the rules applied is deemed to be particularly difficult.
What rules and restrictions (if any) govern contingency fee arrangements?
Contingency fees and other conditional arrangements are allowed between clients and lawyers (Article 60 of the Lawyers’ Code) and the maximum fee percentage agreed may not exceed 20% of the subject matter of the case (or 30% if several lawyers are involved.)
Is third-party litigation funding permitted in your jurisdiction? If so, do any rules or restrictions apply?
The notion of third-party funding is not very popular, but certain insurance companies offer legal expenses protection, thus covering the costs of litigation. There are currently no rules or restrictions on funders.
Is legal aid (ie, public funding) available to claimants in product liability cases? If so, what rules, restrictions and procedures apply?
Legal aid is available to low-income citizens under the provisions of Law 3226/2004 implementing Directive 2003/8/EC in conjunction with Article 194(ff) of the Code of Civil Procedure.
What rules and procedures govern the settlement of product liability cases?
Before filing a lawsuit, a party may refer to a justice of the peace in order for the latter to help settle the dispute (Αrticle 209(ff) of the Code of Civil Procedure). Alternatively, the litigants might reach a settlement (either certified by the court or not, as per the litigants’ choice – Αrticle 214A of the Code of Civil Procedure) until the issuance of a final decision, and provided that the substantive law requirements are met (ie, conformity to bonos mores or public policy, capability of entering into contracts, legal representation). A further option is to use judicial intervention – a permanent mechanism set up in each court of first instance where nominated judges assist the litigants to reach a settlement (Αrticle 214B of the Code of Civil Procedure). Also, the court may propose to litigants to recourse to judicial intervention, and on acceptance of the proposal, the case hearing is adjourned for three months (Αrticle 214C).
How common are settlements in product liability cases?
Parties seldom settle claims.
Alternative dispute resolution
Are any alternative dispute resolution (ADR) methods required or advised before or in lieu of proceeding with litigation?
The parties may choose mediation or arbitration as an ADR method, even for actions pending before the court. Further, before initiating actions, they may voluntarily address the competent district court, asking for the latter’s intervention in order for the dispute to be settled at an early stage (with limited applicability) or recourse to judicial intervention.
Specifically, Ministerial Decision 70330/30/06/2015 implemented the ADR Directive (2013/11/EU) and set supplementary rules for the application of the ΑDR Regulation (524/2014). Registered ADR entities under the ministerial decision include:
- the Consumer Ombudsman, the key ADR authority for consumers;
- the (sectoral) Ombudsman for Banking and Investment Services (and part of FIN-NET for credit/financial trans-boundary disputes);
- ADR Point, a private organisation; and
- the European Institute for Conflict Resolution.
In addition, the following bodies exist for ADR:
- the Committees for Friendly Settlement;
- the European Consumer Centre of Greece;
- the SOLVIT network; and
- the Greek Ombudsman.
As regards settlements of claims, a party may refer to a district court judge before the filing of a lawsuit for the latter’s intervention in order to try and obtain a settlement (Article 209(ff) of the Code of Civil Procedure).
Another option is a settlement between litigants until the issuance of a final decision, provided that the substantive law requirements are met. More specifically, the parties need:
- to conform to bonos mores or public policy/order in general;
- to be capable of entering into contracts; and
- to be legitimately represented (in case of companies by their legal representatives, and in case of minors by their parents or the person who has power to represent them). Special permission is required to be granted by the court where a minor waives any claims by settling them.
How commonly is ADR used in relation to product liability cases in your jurisdiction?
ADR is seldom used to settle product liability cases.
What defences are available to defendants in product liability cases?
The producer is not liable if it can prove that:
- it did not put the product into circulation;
- the defect did not exist at the time the product was put into circulation;
- it did not manufacture the product with the aim to distribute it and it did not distribute the product in the course of its business activity;
- the defect was caused by the fact that the product was manufactured according to compelling law; or
- when the product was put into circulation, the scientific and technological status did not allow for the defect to be discovered (‘state of the art’ defence) (Article 6(8) of Law 2251/1994 on Consumer Protection (the Consumer Protection Law).
The producer of an ingredient of a product is not liable if it proves that the defect was caused by the final planning of the product or by the instructions given by the manufacturer of the final product. The producer’s liability can be limited or even abolished due to contributory negligence of the person who suffered the damage. Under both Directive 99/34/EC on liability for defective products and the Consumer Protection Law, such liability is restricted to three years (with a 10-year prescription period), compared with five and 20 years respectively under the general liability provision.
What preliminary procedural mechanisms are available to defendants, if any?
There are no separate proceedings especially for preliminary issues, which are dealt with at the time of the main trial (either ordinary or injunction proceedings). Where the court considers it important to be informed on foreign law or specific scientific-technical matters, it may issue an interim order thereon.
What types of damages may be awarded in product liability cases? What rules and standards govern their calculation? Are damages capped?
The types of damage that are recoverable are:
- damages caused by death or by personal injury to anyone;
- damages or destruction caused by a defective product to any consumer’s assets other than the defective product itself, including the right to use environmental goods on condition that:
- the damage exceeds €500; and
- the product was ordinarily intended for, and actually used by, the injured person for his or her own private use or consumption (Articles 6(6) and (7) of Law 2251/1994 on Consumer Protection (the Consumer Protection Law)).
Compensation for moral harm or mental distress (to the family of the deceased) may also be claimed. Under a claim in tort, full damages may be recoverable (Article 914(ff) of the Civil Code).
Under contractual liability (Articles 540 to 543 of the Civil Code), the buyer has the option to request:
- repair or replacement of the defective product;
- diminution of the price;
- rescission of the contract; or
- compensation for the damages incurred due to non-performance of the contract;
Moreover, the buyer may claim damages to the extent not covered by the exercise of the first three rights described above.
Are punitive damages allowed?
No, however, where collective claims are concerned, their structure and the fact that the awarded amount for moral harm is invested for purposes of serving the consumer’s education, briefing and protection bring them closer to a pecuniary sentence or so-called ‘civil sanction’ imposed on the producer.
Are any other remedies available?
Monetary compensation under civil proceedings is available to the victim. Criminal or administrative proceedings also pursued do not aim at compensating the victim. Especially under a collective claim, consumers’ associations may ask that:
- the producer abstain from an unlawful behaviour even before it occurs;
- the defect products be recalled, seized (as injunctive measures) or even destroyed;
- moral damages be paid; and
- the court recognise the consumers’ right to restore the damage caused to them by the producer’s unlawful behaviour (Article 10(16) of the Consumer Protection Law).
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.