Who is liable for product damage and do my products have a warranty?

What is product liability?

If an accident occurs because of a defective product, the question of liability often arises. Is the manufacturer, the dealer, or perhaps even the customer responsible?

First, a distinction must be made between damage to a defective product and damage caused by a defective product. The former can often be exchanged for a flawless product from the manufacturer. However, if a serious accident occurs due to damage to the product, the property damage, or worse, the personal injury, must be paid by the manufacturer involved. This damage can quickly cost millions. The customer can generally turn to the manufacturer and claim damages, as the producing company is responsible for the quality of their products.

How is product liability regulated in the EU?

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In the EU member states, these legal disputes are uniformly regulated by the Product Liability Act. Put simply, in the event of damage, the manufacturer is liable regardless of which country the company comes from within the European Economic Area. As a customer or end consumer, you are therefore basically well protected and not involved in complex contractual disputes between the various players.

How does the situation change when importing from China?

If a company imports goods from a third country into the European Union, the situation changes. According to the Product Liability Act, the person bringing the goods into the EU is liable to prosecution. This means that the importer is now responsible for the purchased goods and not the manufacturer as in the case of European domestic trade. Exceptions may apply if a liability assumption declaration has been signed between the business partners.

How can product liability be avoided?

However, there are also ways for importers to avoid claims for damages. Product damage can be prevented with concrete specifications for the manufacturer that comply with European safety standards. Likewise, the importer should conduct sufficient quality testing with the products. In addition, manufacturers, importers, or intermediaries can protect themselves with insurance. These product liability insurances cover the costs arising from property damage, personal injury or other expenses.

In addition, insurance minimizes the risk of manufacturers having to file for insolvency due to enormous claims for damages, leaving customers stranded with their costs.

Difference between warranty and guarantee

For many customers, a warranty is a safeguard and thus increases the incentive to buy. However, many people often confuse the meaning of warranty and guarantee.

The warranty of a certain commercial good is anchored in the German Civil Code. It comes into effect from the time of purchase and can be claimed by the customer if defects appear in the product that are not due to its own wear and tear. Normally, the warranty is valid for two years. In case of damage, the product can be returned and either repaired, or exchanged for a new item.

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The legal warranty obligation also applies to imports from abroad. The prerequisite for this is that the intermediary is also located in the domestic market.

In contrast to the warranty, the guarantee is a voluntary service of the company. With a warranty, the manufacturer promises to remedy any defects that occur in the future free of charge. There are no legal requirements. Guarantees usually serve to create a basis of trust and thus increase the probability of concluding a contract. The period in which the guarantee is valid usually exceeds that of the warranty.

Do you have further questions regarding product liability and warranty?

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