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New liability rules for defective products fit for digital age, thanks to S&Ds


10 Oct 2023


Global Europe

Today, MEPs in the committees on internal market and consumer protection (IMCO) and legal affairs (JURI) jointly voted on the report on liability for defective products, aiming to update the current rules that date back to 1985.

With the development of new technologies, our economies are becoming more circular and new global supply chains are being created. Therefore, the new liability rules aim to ensure that consumers are truly protected from potential damages linked to new technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence.

During the negotiations of the report, the S&D Group took the lead in opposing the right-wing block's resistance to applying the new rules to all types of software, whether it exists as standalone software or is embedded in a tangible product. The S&Ds believe it is not justifiable to compensate for damages caused by an embedded digital product, such as a smart fire alarm, and not by standalone software, such as a bugged computer programme.

Maria-Manuel Leitão-Marques, S&D JURI shadow-rapporteur for the “Liability for defective products” report, said:

“Under the current rules – in order to get compensation – consumers need to prove the damage caused, the defectiveness of the product and the causal link between the two. In practice, this would prove impossible in the case of complex products, such as software or products based on Artificial Intelligence, as it cannot be expected that an average consumer has the same knowledge as an IT specialist.

“The S&Ds have secured an agreement, which makes the burden of proof in cases of technical and scientific complexity easier for consumers. For example, in the case of complex software that malfunctions when helping a driver park a car – consumers will only have to prove that the possibility of a defect existed in the software and that it caused damage, such as an accident. If they do so, the defectiveness of the product, and its causal link with the damage, will be presumed.

“This is a major win to future-proof this legislation and to protect European consumers from damages arising from complex digital technologies.”

René Repasi, S&D IMCO shadow-rapporteur for the “Liability for defective products” report, said:

“Where damages occur due to a defective autonomous product or a smart home device, the compensation of consumers has to be ensured. Today’s vote represents a great step towards setting new product liability rules that are up to date with new technologies and damages. Like all products, material damages and defects are covered. This ensures that consumers will be protected in the new digital era and receive fair compensation.

“We, as S&Ds, have fought fiercely to ensure there are no liability gaps. Not when it comes to artificial intelligence, nor when consumers shop online. The inclusion of online marketplaces is a success for consumers and will help protect them in the future from defective products and cases where no compensation takes place.”

Notes to editors

The Liability for defective products is a set of rules aiming to compensate injured persons for physical injury or damages of property that they have suffered due to defective and finished products (e.g. a leaking washing machine). Contrary to the previous legislation that dates back from 1985, the new proposals also include digital products such as software, damages caused by defective software updates or Artificial Intelligence.

In case of a positive outcome, the negotiations between member states, the Parliament and the Commission will start at the end of October.


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