Product liability

General information on product liability

Product liability applies to personal injury and material damage caused by faults present in a product released onto the market. There does not have to be a contractual tie between the manufacturer of a product and the injured party, meaning that third parties, and not only the buyer of the product, are entitled to bring claims.

Under the Produkthaftungsgesetz, compensation can be claimed if:

  • the product is defective;
  • injury or damage has occurred; and
  • there is a demonstrable causal link between the defect and the loss incurred.

Advice

There is no compensation under the Produkthaftungsgesetz for damage to the product itself, as statutory warranty entitlements and voluntary guarantees are in place for such cases.

A product is considered defective if it does not offer the safety that may be expected, having regard to all the circumstances, especially in terms of:

  • presentation of the product (including information in brochures, user manuals and warnings); and
  • expected use (account must also be taken of the use generally made of a product, even if this is not its intended purpose).

If an improved product is later released on to the market, the older product is not automatically considered defective.

Settlement of personal injury claims

In terms of product liability, if statutory provisions are fulfilled, personal injury claims are settled for example by compensation for pain and suffering or reimbursement of treatment and care expenses not covered by the statutory accident, illness and pension insurance.

Settlement of material damage claims

On the other hand, in the case of material damage, only losses in excess of 500 Euro are settled.

Example: An electrical appliance begins to burn due to a manufacturing defect. The fire it causes destroys furniture worth 1,700 Euro. The total compensation therefore amounts to 1,200 Euro (1,700 Euro minus the 500 Euro). However, any damage to the electrical appliance itself is covered under warranty and/or guarantee.

Shared liability on the part of the injured party leads to a corresponding reduction of the compensation claims.

Compensation claim

If a defect in a product has led to damage, injured parties can claim compensation from the party liable.

Liability may apply

  • to the business person who manufactured and marketed the product; or
  • in the case of imports from a third country, to the importer who introduced the product into the European Economic Area or EU and released it on to the market here.

If neither the manufacturer nor, if products have been introduced into the EEA, the importer can be traced, every business person who has released the product on to the market is liable if he does not disclose the identity of the manufacturer (importer or upstream supplier) to the injured party in reasonable time (about four weeks from the inquiry).

In principle, there are two ways of lodging a compensation claim:

  • Out of court
    You apply directly to the party liable to pay compensation (the manufacturer, importer, upstream supplier or dealer) by registered letter, with the most thorough documentation possible of your loss.
    Specimen letters are available at the website of the Consumer Information Association. If an out-of-court settlement cannot be reached in this way, legal action is possible.
  • Claiming through court

Tip

Seek legal advice before taking any initial action. Information on legal informationGerman text and working days at the Regional CourtGerman text is also available at oesterreich.gv.at.

Regardless of whether you reach an out-of-court settlement or wish to file a legal claim, you should, if possible, keep the following records as documentary evidence:

  • Invoice
  • Exact description of products (possibly also the brochure or user manual)
  • Description of personal injury supported by a doctor’s report
  • Description of material damage (if possible stating the amount of the loss)
  • Photographs of the defective product and damage caused
  • Copies of correspondence (letters, emails etc.) and other records.

If it is possible to do so safely, keep the defective product as evidence in itself.  

Claims under the Produkthaftungsgesetz are statute-barred three years after learning of the loss and its originator, or ten years after the product launch. Legal action must be brought before expiry of these periods.

Product safety

The Austrian Federal Ministry of Social Affairs, Healthcare and Consumer Protection urges affected persons to immediately report accidents caused, in whole or in part, by a defective or unsafe product so that the appropriate preventive measures under the Produktsicherheitsgesetz of 2004 can be taken if necessary. 

A form is not required for your report, which you can 

  • email to the Product Safety Department at produktsicherheit@sozialministerium.at
  • post to the Bundesministerium für Soziales, Gesundheit, Pflege und Konsumentenschutz, Abt. III/A/2 - Produktsicherheit, Stubenring 1, 1010 Vienna.

In any case, your report should include a description of the accident (what, when, how, where and with what consequences) and all information necessary to identify the product (manufacturer, make, model, dealer, date of purchase, price etc.) If it is possible to do so safely, please keep the product for any required tests.

The aim of the Produktsicheheitsgesetz is to ensure that no dangerous products are offered for sale or circulated. Market monitoring bodies deployed for the purpose monitor products in the trade. For example, prohibitions of sale may be imposed, recalls ordered or products seized.

Further links

Legal basis

Translated by the European Commission
Last update: 22 January 2021

Responsible for the content: Federal Ministry of Social Affairs, Health, Care and Consumer Protection