Commission assesses Member States
The European Commission adopted today a Communication on the implementation of the Directive on certain aspects of the sale of consumer goods and associated guarantees (1999/44/EC) in the Member States. The Communication includes an analysis of the case for introducing direct liability for producers.
The Directive on sales and guarantees aims to harmonise those parts of consumer sales law that concern legal guarantees and, to a lesser extent, commercial guarantees (warranties). Its main purpose is to ensure that sellers must guarantee the conformity of their goods with the contract for two years after the delivery of the goods, (i.e. if the product does not work, the consumer may return it within two years). If the goods do not conform to the sales contract, consumers can claim remedies against the seller (repair, replacement, reduction in price or termination of contract).
All Member States have introduced national laws transposing the requirements of the Directive. However, in some areas there are significant differences between Member States, since the Directive sets out minimum standards and some EU countries have chosen stricter measures. For instance, Member States may provide that, in order to benefit from his rights, the consumer must inform the seller of the problems with the goods within a period of two months from the date on which the consumer detected this (sixteen Member States have provided for such a notification requirement).
In addition, the Communication examines the case for introducing the direct liability of producers. Such liability would allow consumers to turn directly to the producer of the goods in case of a defect. The current Directive only regulates the liability of sellers. The Communication concludes that there is currently not enough evidence to determine whether the lack of EU rules on direct producers’ liability has a negative effect on consumer confidence in the internal market.
The issue of direct producers' liability, together with other policy issues arising from the implementation and application of the Directive, is addressed in a major consultation (Green Paper) launched by the Commission in February (COM(2006) 744 final). A number of cross-cutting issues of relevance for EU consumer legislation as a whole are presented for public consultation. The Commission calls on all interested parties to respond to this consultation before 15 May 2007.
The Communication will now be sent to the European Parliament and Council.