The transformation to a digital economy and society is changing the economic reality of the single market. New emerging technologies (e.g. cleaning robots and medical health apps) already benefit our society and economy, but also present potential risks.
As products have become more complex in the digital age, on 28 September 2022, the European Commission published a proposal for a new directive on liability of defective products. This would revise the existing Product Liability Directive, adopted nearly 40 years ago in 1985. The proposal aims to bring the European Union’s product liability regime up to speed with the digital age, circular economy business models and global value chains.
Addressing the need to ease the burden of proof for consumers seeking compensation for damages suffered because of defective products, the proposal also introduces new provisions to address liability for products such as software (including artificial intelligence systems) and digital services that affect how the product works (e.g. navigation services in autonomous vehicles). As the circular economy is about extending product lifecycles, the proposal clarifies the liability rules for companies that substantially modify products before resale. The proposed rules also ensure that consumers are compensated for defective products manufactured outside the EU. The proposal alleviates the burden of proof for victims under certain circumstances and obliges manufacturers to disclose information where plausible claims for compensation are made.
The next step is for the European Parliament and the Council to consider the proposal. In Parliament, the file has been assigned to the Legal Affairs Committee (JURI) with Pascal Arimont (EPP, Belgium) appointed as rapporteur.