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?

The most relevant safety and environmental rules relating to automotive compliance are envisaged in the EU Directive and Regulations mentioned in question 2 (ie, Directive 2007/46/EC, Regulation (EC) 661/2009 and Regulation (EC) 715/2007).

Pursuant to Regulation (EC) 661/2009 and Regulation (EC) 715/2007, respectively, manufacturers shall (i) ensure that vehicles are designed, constructed and assembled to minimise the risk of injury to vehicle occupants and other road users, and (ii) equip vehicles so that the components likely to affect emissions are designed, constructed and assembled so as to enable the vehicle, in normal use, to comply with Regulation (EC) 715/2007.

Against this backdrop, the Spanish General Regulation on Vehicles provides for the following:

  • registered vehicles may be cancelled from the Vehicles Registry in the event that the relevant competent authority, owing to wear or deterioration of the vehicle’s mechanical elements, certifies that said vehicle constitutes an obvious danger for its occupants or for traffic safety in general (section 35, paragraph 2 of the General Regulation on Vehicles); and
  • in the course of procedures relating to the declaration of nullity, loss of validity or expiry of administrative authorisations for the traffic of vehicles, the competent authority is entitled to suspend the applicability of the relevant authorisation if it poses a serious danger to traffic safety (section 51, paragraph 4 of the General Regulation on Vehicles).

As for automotive-related product recalls in Spain, these are subject to the general product safety rules, which are based on the General Product Safety Directive 2001/95/EC.

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?

Spain does not have a strong tradition in product liability litigation, and there have been no major automotive-related product liability disputes in recent years. This may change in the following years, as compensations to be paid for personal damages was substantially increased at the beginning of 2016.

On the other hand, the Spanish Procedural Act of 2000 established a completely new system of class actions, giving consumer associations a major role in these proceedings. However, to date these actions have been used in a very small number of cases, and rarely with regard to the automotive industry.

This does not mean that there have been no product recalls in the sector. The automotive industry has suffered several product recall cases in Spain, some of them particularly relevant. However, the main consequences of these product recalls have been reputational damages, and only very few relevant fines and sanctions have been imposed in recent years.