The EU Directive on faulty products (85/374/EEC), created in 1985, protects consumers' rights by outlining the legal responsibility of manufacturers for whatever products they produce. It also helps the process of compensation claims should they arise. Items included in the directive can be from a variety of manufacturing sectors and include everything from cars and toys to food and pharmaceutical substances.
If a product is defective, it is deemed to be 'less safe than a consumer can reasonably expect'. Before the Directive, consumers had to prove at their cost that a manufacturer had been negligent in causing an injury. Now you only have to prove the product is defective and that it caused an injury. If one or more people are responsible for the product, it is considered to be a joint liability.
The Directive states that manufacturers and not retailers are liable for injuries caused by defective products. Financial penalties put further pressure on manufacturers to make sure their products are safe before they're sold.
A directive is an EU legislative act requiring Member States to achieve a specified result without dictating exactly how to achieve that result. If national legislation does not comply with the requirements of the directive, however, the European Commission can initiate legal action against the Member State in the European Court of Justice.
A manufacturer can avoid liability by claiming something called 'the development risk defence' if he is able to show that he couldn't foresee the risk when his product first came on the market. He can also claim that he followed statutory requirements, but that his product was defective nonetheless.
Advice to consumers is to choose products they buy with great care and to read the manufacturer's instructions carefully. The manufacturer is responsible for the defective product if based in the EU, or the importer if they are not based in the EU.
In the event of a product liability claim, action must be taken within three years of the accident taking place. The right to claim compensation ends ten years after the product first appeared on the market.
How a mother made a successful claim on behalf of her daughter who sustained burn injuries from faulty hair straighteners.Read more
A five-year old's father awarded £17,000 for trampoline accident.Read more
Case study of a man who made a claim after suffering a fractured coccyx when a defective bar stool collapsed.Read more
The story of how a man received £3,800 after biting into a stone in his food.Read more