In recent years, the product safety regime in the European Union (‘EU’) has been amended to provide increased stability for producers and more protection for consumers. The framework seeks to balance the interest of consumers in having access to safe products with the interest of producers in avoiding costly litigation due to differing national standards. There are currently three prominent EU directives designed to protect the health and safety of consumers. These three directives are the Product Liability Directive (the ‘Directive’), the European General Product Safety Directive (the ‘GPSD’), and the Product Warranty Directive. This paper will focus on the impact of the Directive and the GPSD in the EU and will compare these two directives with product liability law in the United States (‘US’). This paper will also explore the newly proposed Product Safety and Market Surveillance Package (the ‘Package’), expected to replace the GPSD as soon as 2015, and the impact that the Package will have on product liability law in the EU.
The combination of the Directive and the GPSD provide a comprehensive scheme for product liability law in the EU. When compared with U.S. product liability law, these two directives achieve greater harmonization across member states than the current US product liability regime. Although both the EU and the US have similar product liability laws, the current EU regime often affords consumers greater access to redress and maintains strict requirements in regards to product labeling. The proposed Package will introduce even more harmonization into the EU, making it harder on economic operators who sell or produce defective products to escape liability. However, the EU product liability regime is not without problems and there are multiple areas in which the US product liability framework offers better alternatives and provides less confusion for manufacturers and consumers.
Sterrett, Lauren, Product Liability: Advancements in European Union Product Liability Law and a Comparison between the EU and US Regime (2015) 23 Michigan State International Law Review 885 (2015).