Your relationship with your customers doesn't end when they buy your product. Even after delivery, you bear some responsibility if your product turns out to be faulty.
As manufacturer or importer you are liable for damage caused by a defect in your product.
What counts as faulty?
Your customers can ask for redress if your product:
- doesn't match the product description, or if the qualities of the product you sold do not correspond to model advertised or shown to the client
- is not fit for the purpose for which products of the same type are used, or for which the customer ordered it (if you accepted the customer's requirements)
- doesn't show the quality and performance normal in products of the same type
- needs installation before use and you installed it incorrectly or your customer installed it incorrectly due to shortcomings in the installation instructions.
You are bound by your public statements (in particular in advertisements or on labels) about your products.
If you inform your customer that the product you are going to sell has some quality problems, your customer can claim no redress from you as regards this particular defect.
What redress can your customer claim?
Your customers have the right to ask you for:
- repair of the product
- replacement of the product
- price reduction
- cancellation of contract and reimbursement.
To begin with, the customer can ask for a repair or replacement. Any repair or replacement must be done within a reasonable time and without significant inconvenience to your client.
Failing that, your customer can ask for a price reduction or full reimbursement. If the fault in the product is minor - such as a scratch on a CD case - the contract of sale cannot be cancelled.
You must provide the redress free of charge. This includes costs of postage, labour or material.
Your liability for redress starts on the day of delivery and remains valid for 2 years.
Customers have 2 months to inform you after detecting a problem with your product.
If the problem is detected within 6 months of delivery, your product is deemed to have been faulty at the time of delivery.
If you sell second-hand products, you can agree with your customer on a liability period of less than 2 years, but not less than 1 year.
You can also give your customers additional guarantees, but this is not obligatory, and does not affect your customers' basic rights to repair, replacement, price reduction and reimbursement, or the time limits. You must not mislead the customer about their legal rights.
What if you are only a distributor and the producer is at fault?
If your customer returns a faulty product, you too have certain rights as the distributor. If the defect is the result of a production failure, you can seek redress from the producer just as your customer did with you.
You are liable for a defect in your products. If they cause harm to your customers (death, personal injury, material damage to personal belongings, etc.), you could end up in serious trouble.
Take care when you:
- manufacture a final product
- manufacture parts to be incorporated into another product
- import a product into the EU for further sale.
If more than one business is responsible for the safety of the same product, the injured party can take any of them to court.
Liability rules also apply to electricity and agricultural products. Your sales contract may not contain terms that reduce your responsibility for a defective product.
How to seek redress as an injured party
To claim compensation for damage suffered, the injured party must prove that:
- damage took place
- your product was defective
- the defect and the damage were linked.
Cases when you are not liable
You bear no liability if you can prove that:
- you did not place the product on the market
- you did not manufacture the product for sale
- the defect causing the damage did not exist when the product was placed on the market
- the defect arose only because your product had to fulfil mandatory technical requirements
- according to the latest scientific and technical standards, no one could have foreseen the defect when you placed the product on the market
- you manufactured only one component, and the defect was the result of the design of the final product.
The injured party has 3 years to claim compensation, starting on the day they became aware of the damage.
You are no longer responsible for damage caused by your product once it has been on the market for 10 years, unless someone has claimed compensation from you during that period.
Search for unsafe products: RAPEX
EU national authorities can act (by recalling products or banning trade) to deal with products that pose a serious risk to the health or safety of consumers. Manufacturers can also recall their products. In all cases, any action taken is recorded in the RAPEX database. RAPEX does not track measures taken against agricultural products nor against pharmaceutical and medical devices.