How can Consumers Protect Themselves Against Product Defects?

Fire-hazardous PC notebook batteries, defective car brakes, rotten meat scandals: All too often we have to read about this. But how can you protect yourself, and what rights do you have when you are damaged or injured?


1  Keeping Alert

It is wise to be already on guard when buying a product in a shop. Many products have a quality seal, which warrants the safety of a product. There are two important seals to know.

The “CE” seal is mandatory pursuant to European law to prove the safety of certain products in regard to their hazardousness. This seal means that a certain product has met all requirements of European Directives.
The “GS” seal is a voluntary one. “GS” stands for Geprüfte Sicherheit (tested safety) under German law. Independent experts attest to the safety of a product that has passed the testing.

2 Claims for Damages

Whenever a person is injured or is damaged, he is entitled to compensation under the Product Liability Act (Produkthaftungsgesetz). This law is mandatory and cannot be excluded by contract and especially so in general terms and conditions! In addition to claims under the Products Liability Act, you also have warranty claims under the civil code.

3  Requirements for Product-Liability Claims

The ultimate consumer must have been damaged. Such persons are those who are injured or damaged directly. The defective product itself is covered by the civil code. This product must have been intended for non-commercial use and used in accordance with a typically foreseeable use. (For example, like sitting or standing on a chair which collapses causing injury.) In the case of actual defectiveness, liability is presumed therefore the injured person need only prove actual damages.

4 Producer’s Liability

Since there is a presumption of producer fault in an actual case of defectiveness, the rule of caveat emptor (Buyer beware!) does not apply. But this does not relieve the consumer of the duty to inspect and discover obvious faults (§6 ProdHaftG). Thus, the producer has to prove all and any incidents that can show his lack of fault. Producers can produce the ultimate product or a component thereof. Importers or suppliers can simultaneously be held liable (§5 Product Liability Act). The vendor can be considered as “quasi producer” if his name, logo or another brand has been attached to the dangerous product.

Published on the old CMS: 2007/2/5
Read on the old CMS till November 2008: 1,276 reads

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