With 33 votes to 2 with no abstentions, the Legal Affairs Committee (JURI) and the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee (IMCO) of the EU Parliament adopted their common position on the planned amendment to the Product Liability Directive on Monday evening. The main issue here is the damage caused to consumers by manufacturers through defective products. The aim of the directive, initiated by the EU Commission in September 2022, is to respond appropriately to the emergence of new technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), the transition to a circular economy and the increase in online shopping with sales outlets outside of member states.
According to their position, the MPs want consumers to be able to claim not only physical but also medically recognized psychological damage as well as the destruction or irreversible damage to data in the case of defective goods. For example, you mention the deletion of files on a hard drive that was not your fault if the economic damage exceeds 1,000 euros. The people’s representatives also advocate extending the liability period from 20 years – as proposed by the Commission – to 30 years in exceptional cases. This is said to be the case if the faulty symptoms only appear slowly over time. If a customer has purchased a defective product outside the EU, an EU-based company such as a distributor may be held liable for the damage caused.
Open source software excluded
In order not to endanger innovations, the rules should not apply to open source software that is available for free, according to the decision. The parliamentarians want to abolish the minimum damage limit of 500 euros for making claims. In addition, national consumer protection authorities should provide consumers with better advice when asserting claims for damages. MPs want to simplify the burden of proof in court proceedings. Injured parties should be able to demand that the operator hand over documents that can help them enforce their claims for damages. According to the Commission’s draft, this could, for example, involve the publication of training data for algorithms, user protocols or information on quality management.
EU parliamentarians sought “a balance between maintaining an effective tool for victims of defective products and the legal certainty that economic operators deserve in a rapidly changing market characterized by digitalization, circular economy and global value chains,” explained JURI rapporteur Pascal Arimont from the conservative European People’s Party. The consumer protection association BEUC praised the fact that both committees were in favor of itto include standalone software such as apps in the product liability directive.
This is how it continues
Parliament still has to adopt the draft mandate at one of its next plenary sessions, which is largely considered a formality. It can then negotiate the final form of the law with the EU Council of Ministers. The Commission has brought further requirements with a focus on automated systems into play with the draft for a separate directive on AI liability. This is intended to harmonize regulations for claims that do not fall within the scope of the more general law in the event of damage caused by misconduct. These include violations of privacy or defects caused by security problems. The MPs and the EU states are still pondering this.
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