Liability for compensation
Consumers are also entitled to compensation for damages caused by a defect in goods purchased. No compensation is given for trouble and upset or emotional distress.
To receive compensation, the claimant must present proof of the damage. This entails a receipt or another reliable report of the costs incurred.
Both the consumer and the vendor must act to ensure that the costs caused by the damage are limited as much as possible. If, for example, the consumer could justifiably have reduced the costs caused by the defect by acting differently, then any costs seen as groundless do not have to be covered.
Damages to be compensated
Compensation may be demanded for both direct and indirect damages, as well as material damage.
1. Direct damages
Direct damages include reasonable travel, postage and telephone costs caused by a defect, as well as the cost of having the defect or fault analysed (by a goods inspector or similar person) and the unavoidable costs caused by using substituted goods or services. Repair costs are also direct damages if, for a justifiable reason, the defect had to be repaired by someone other than the vendor or the vendor refused to carry out the repairs.
2. Indirect damages
Compensation for indirect damages will only be provided if the damages were due to negligence on the company’s part. This may take the form of dereliction of duty, incompetence, indifference or carelessness. Compensation for indirect damages may be claimed, for example, in the case of financial losses, such as:
- loss of income
Example: The consumer has had to take time off work in order to investigate or repair the defect and has had their salary deducted for that time.
- the consumer incurring significant inconvenience from not being able to use the product
Example: The consumer’s car has broken down due to a defect, which leads to missing a flight whose ticket price was non-refundable.
3. Material damage (damage caused to property by defective goods)
Consumers may demand compensation for material damage, i.e. damage caused to other property by defective goods. Whom the demands should be addressed to depends on the type of damage.
The claim should be addressed to the vendor if the item causing the damage and the damaged product are directly connected by use. For example, the vendor may be liable to provide compensation for textiles ruined by a defective washing machine or foods defrosted by a defective freezer. If the damage was caused by a defect in a spare part or material used in repairing the goods, the liable party may be the company that conducted the repairs.
The claim should be addressed to the manufacturer or importer for damage caused to persons or private property due to safety defects in the goods. If the manufacturer of the product is not evident, the claim may be addressed to the company that marketed the product as its own or equipped it with a logo. The consumer must be able to present proof of the damage, the safety deficiencies and the causal relationship between the two.
- Material damage includes repair costs, the costs related to the damage caused by the goods, a decrease in value or the value of a destroyed item. Material damage below the value of EUR 395.25 need not be compensated. Any damages exceeding this lower limit must be covered as a whole.
- In cases of personal injury, the liability applies to medical costs (with no lower limit), as well as other costs caused by the defect. Additional compensation may have to be provided for loss of income, pain and suffering, and disability or another permanent form of damage.