When does a product have a defect?
A product has a defect when it is not as agreed with the vendor, or it does not meet certain requirements laid down in the law. A defect in a product means a fault, shortcoming or deviation for which the vendor is liable under the provisions on liability for defects in the Consumer Protection Act. The vendor’s liability is always assessed on a case-by-case basis.
There is a defect in the product if, for example:
If the product is not as agreed or as presented in marketing, it is defective.
The product must be as promised, among other things in respect of its:
- other features
The vendor’s liability for defects covers the expected service life of the product, not just the warranty period.
The product has a defect for which the vendor is liable if it lasts for a shorter period than what the consumer can reasonably expect. The buyer has the right to expect that a device keeps working for its normal service life without high repair costs. For example, the expected service life of household appliances and electronic devices is several years.
When assessing consumers’ reasonable expectations, the price of the product may be one of the significant factors. A high price usually creates special expectations of quality.
The product has a defect for which the vendor is liable, provided that the item is not suitable:
- for the purpose for which similar items are normally used.
- for a special purpose specified by the consumer that the vendor knew about. If the vendor has approved such a special purpose, the vendor is liable for ensuring that the sold product is suitable for the purpose specified by the buyer.
If the product cannot be used without instructions, instructions for its use, maintenance and care must be provided. The instructions for use must be in a format in which they can be used without difficulty.
The instructions must be provided in Finnish and Swedish. Instructions for use must also be provided in an online shop if the website is available in Finnish and the marketing is also clearly aimed at Finnish consumers.
Read more: User instructions
For example, the updates specified in the contract may improve the digital content or service contained in the product and make its operation more efficient, expand its functions and adapt it to technical advancement. Even if this has not been specifically agreed, the vendor has an obligation to deliver the necessary security and other updates for the product.
The product is also defective if it differs from what was agreed or from general requirements because of incorrect installation. Liability for defects applies if the installation of the product
- is included in the contract of sale and the product is installed by the vendor or the vendor’s subcontractor, or
- was the responsibility of the buyer, but incorrect installation was due to deficiencies in the installation instructions provided by the vendor.
When a product that includes digital elements is sold (such as a computer or smartphone), the vendor must make sure that the buyer is informed of the necessary security and other updates.
The vendor must provide the necessary updates:
- in a one-off delivery of digital content or services, updates must be provided for a reasonable period of time. As a rule, a reasonable period of time is the expected service life of the product.
- in continuous supply of digital content or services, the necessary updates must be provided for as long as the vendor is liable for defects in the product and, in any case, at least for the period during which the digital content or service is to be supplied under the contract.
The buyer is free to decide if they wish to install the updates. If the buyer does not install the updates, the vendor will not be liable for any defects caused by the failure to instal the update in question if:
- the vendor has informed the buyer of the availability of the update and the consequences of failure to install it; and
- failure to install the update or its incorrect installation is not due to incomplete installation instructions provided to the buyer.The vendor’s statutory obligation to deliver the necessary updates applies to contracts concluded on 1 January 2022 or later. However, the consumer may also require that updates necessary for the functioning of the device are available for a sufficient period of time for products on which the contract was concluded before this date.
Exceptions to the vendor’s liability for defects
Faults or shortcomings may appear in products during their service life for which the vendor is not liable.
The vendor is not liable for any faults caused by
- the normal wear and tear of the product or one of its parts.
- improper handling of the product.
- failure to comply with operating or care instructions.
- an accident that occurred after the product was handed over.
The vendor is also not liable in the following situations:
At the time of the sale, the consumer has been explicitly told that certain special features of the product differ from the general requirements, and the consumer has specifically and explicitly accepted these features.
The product cannot be sold “as is” or with similar general reservations, and the vendor must specify the extent to which the product differs from the general requirements of the Consumer Protection Act.
If you have purchased a second-hand product before 1 January 2022, the provision on the “as is” condition in the older Act can be applied to assessing its defectiveness. Under this provision the product is defective if, for example, it is in a worse condition than the buyer has had justified reason to expect considering its price and other circumstances.
The materials supplied by the consumer for making the product had a fault or defect, and the vendor did not know and could not have known about these defects in the materials.
To be exempted from liability, the vendor must demonstrate that:
- the vendor did not know, and could not reasonably have been expected to know, about the information in question.
- the information was corrected by the time the contract was concluded using the same or a comparable method to the one used to present it.
- the information could not have had an impact on the purchase.
Did you buy a product before 1 January 2022?
The provisions on defects in the Consumer Protection Act were amended on 1 January 2022. The earlier provisions on defects are applied to contracts concluded before the amended Act entered into force. While the contents of the new and old provisions are mainly similar, the new ones are more detailed.
Kuluttajansuojalaki (Consumer Protection Act in Finnish)