Consumer Goods Standards
The Directive on Consumer Sales and Guarantees gives consumers additional rights in relation to the sale of goods and more effective remedies than existed under the (Irish and the UK) Sale of Goods Act.
The seller must deliver goods to a consumer which are in conformity with the contract of sale. Any lack of conformity, including the incorrect installation of goods where they are installed by the seller or under is responsibility is covered.
If the goods do not conform, the consumer is entitled to have them brought into conformity, free of charge by repair or replacement. If this is impossible or disproportionate, he is entitled to have an appropriate reduction in the price. The seller is liable for the lack of conformity within two years of delivery of the goods. A seller may undertake additional obligations and requirements.
Consumers may not waive the rights they hold under the directives. Member states can increase the level of protection which the directive provides in their territory.
Consumer goods are tangible movable goods excluding
- goods sold under authority of law, e.g. execution by Sheriff
- Water and gas which are not sold in limited volumes or said quantities
The goods are presumed to be in conformity if
- they confine to the description given by the seller or possess the qualities which the seller has held out to the consumer as a sample or model;
- are fit for any particular purpose for which the consumer requires them and which he made known to the seller at the time of conclusion of the contract and which the seller has accepted; are fit for purposes for which goods of the same type are normally sold;
- show the quality and performance which are normal in goods of the same type and which the consumer can reasonably expect, given the nature of the goods and taking into account any public statements on the specific characteristics of the goods particularly in advertising and labelling.
Conformity Standard Required
Consumer goods must conform to the contract of sale. At the moment of delivery, they must
- comply with the description given by the seller and possess the qualities of the product which the seller has held out to the consumer as a sample or model
- be fit for the purpose of which goods of the same type are normally used
- be fit for any purpose for which the consumer requires them which is made known to the seller at the time of conclusion of the contract and accepted by the seller.
Their quality and performance must be satisfactory given the nature of the goods and taking account of the public statements made about by the seller, producer or representative. The seller is liable to the consumer for any lack of conformity which exists or arises within two years of delivery. Lack of conformity will not apply if the time of the contract was concluded, the consumer knew or could not reasonably have been unaware of the lack of conformity.
If the goods are not in conformity with public statements made by the seller, the producer or the representative, the seller will not be liable if they show that they
- did not know and could not reasonably know the statement in question
- corrected the statement at the time of sale
- the decision to buy the goods could not have been influenced by the statement
Lack of conformity due to incorrect installation of the goods is deemed lack of conformity if the installation was part of the sale of goods and they were installed by the seller or under its supervision or responsibilities. The same applies if the goods are installed by the consumer but the lack of conformity is due to defects in the installation instruction.
Lack of conformity becoming apparent within six months of delivery is presumed to have existed at the time of delivery unless proof to the contrary has given or the presumption is incompatible with the nature of the goods and the nature of the lack of conformity
If a lack of conformity is notified to the seller, the consumer is entitled to require
- that the goods be repaired or replaced free of charge within a reasonable period and without major inconvenience to the consumer and / or
- to an appropriate reduction to be made to the price or
- the contract to be rescinded if repair or replacement is impossible or disproportionate or if the seller has not remedied the shortcoming within a reasonable period or without major inconvenience to the consumer.
The contract cannot be terminated if the lack of conformity is minor.
When the seller of the goods is liable to the consumer for lack of conformity a previous seller in the chain or any other intermediary may be pursued by the final seller.
There are minimum EU-wide rules relating to guarantees. Legal guarantees are basic consumer protections which are compulsory in respect of the defects in the goods. Commercial guarantees involve a third-party guarantor who assumes liability for defects. In this context, a guarantee covers the latter type of commercial guarantee rather than the implied conditions of sales. They refer to any additional undertaking given by the seller or producer over and above the minimum rules governing the sale of consumer goods to reimburse the price paid to exchange the payer or rectify a product in the case of nonconformity of the product with the contract.
Any commercial guarantees offered by the seller or producer are legally binding under the conditions laid down in the documents and advertising supporting it. The guarantee must state that consumer has statutory rights and clearly state that these rights are not affected by the guarantees. The guarantee must state its content in simple understandable terms and set out the conditions for claiming under it. It must specify the duration, territorial scope, and name and address of the guarantor.
At the consumer’s request, the guarantee must be made available in writing in a durable medium. States may provide that in relation to consumer goods marketed within their territory, be drafted in one or more official languages of the community
Contract terms which directly or indirectly waive or restrict the rights created by the directive are not binding on the consumer. Member states may provide more stringent provisions compatible with the treaty, to ensure a high level of consumer protection.
Common product safety requirements are essential for the free movement of goods. Food safety laws are treated under a different framework of laws relating to integrated food safety “from farm to fork”.
EU Directives contained specific rules for particular products. With a view to completing the single market, anew approach is taken in the late 1980s so that only the essential requirements need be harmonised. Standardisation bodies were largely entrusted with the adoption of specific technical standards.
Sectoral directives have been complemented with general legislation; the General Product Safety Directive, most recently updated in 2001. This has become comprehensive legislation covering all products, with limited exceptions. The directive defines safety requirements and sets of the rapid information exchange mechanism referred to as RAPEX.
A product is safe if, under normal or reasonably foreseeable conditions of use, including duration, it does not present any risks or only the minimum risk compatible with the product’s use considered to be acceptable and consistent with a high level of protection for the safety and health of persons.
The general safety obligation is that the producer is obliged to place only safe products on the market. A product is deemed safe if it is in conformity with national rules. It is presumed safe if it conforms to voluntary national standards which implement European standards. Otherwise, safety is based on compliance with a list of factors. The obligation to check conformity rests primarily on the producer.
The RAPEX systems are designed to ensure that dangerous goods are removed from the market before they cause harm. It allows for the exchange of information between the states and the EU Commission through a network of national contact points. The Commission may adopt formal decisions requiring states to ban products which pose a particular risk, to recall them or withdraw them from the market.
The EU legislation on defective products seeks to prevent unsafe products being placed on the market. There is strict civil liability for damage and loss caused by dangerous products.
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