The European Commission Staff Working Document (SWD(2018) 137) on liability for emerging digital technologies aims to identify the legal challenges that technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), advanced robotics, autonomous systems and the Internet of Things (IoT) pose to the existing European and EU Member States legislation due to their novel technical and operational characteristics.

Internet of Things, and other emerging digital technologies, lead to the creation of products and services that allow for new opportunities for our economy and society, but also raise important questions. For example, do the existing EU rules for safety and for the allocation of liability adequately cover the innovative IoT products and services? Does our European legal framework provide an adequate level of legal certainty for businesses and appropriate redress mechanisms for consumers of these new products and services?

In order to fully benefit from the opportunities presented by these new products and services, it is critical to achieve legal certainty and investment stability in emerging digital technologies. The European Commission Staff Working Document on liability for emerging digital technologies supports in achieving legal certainty for Internet of Things. Building on preliminary work, such as the study on emerging issues of data ownership, interoperability, (re-)usability and access to data, and liability, public consultations and internal legal analysis, this document provides a mapping of the legal challenges raised by emerging digital technologies like IoT. It also features a number of specific technology use cases (i.e. autonomous drones, autonomous cars and smart home ecosystems) and examines how existing EU or national liability rules could apply to emerging digital technologies.

The ultimate objective of this European Commission Staff Working Document is to launch a reflection on future developments regarding liability, in order to ensure equitable remedies and compensation to consumers, to offer legal clarity for producers, as well as to identify and avoid any potential disparities and fragmentation in the Digital Single Market. Ensuring the safety of IoT innovative products and services over their lifetime is also very important, as it can prevent or reduce potential damages and liability issues.

What does the European Commission propose?

The European Commission proposes to analyse the questions described in this Staff Working Document with the help of an Expert Group on "Liability and New Technologies", which will be formed soon. This group of experts will work in 2 formations: the "Product Liability Directive" formation and the "New Technologies" formation.

The "Product Liability Directive" formation, will discuss questions related, for example, to an update of the concepts of "producer", "product" and "defect", the exemptions and other elements of the Product Liability Directive (Council Directive 85/374/EEC) in order to reflect the technological and other developments in the single market and global value chains. The "New Technologies" formation will analyse other relevant issues reflected in the Staff Working Document, such as the overall liability regimes and approaches with the aim to facilitate the uptake of emerging digital technologies by fostering investment stability and users’ trust.