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Spain

Litigation          

Spain has implemented the European Council Directives 85/374 EEC of 25 July 1985 and 2001/95/EC. The main laws on product liability in Spain are Royal Legislative Decree 1/2007, of November 2007, and Royal Decree 1801/2003, of 26 December 2003, on general product safety. Product liability claims are brought before the Courts of First Instance. Spain has also developed a consumer arbitral system (SAC) to deal with complaints from consumers and users. Submission to SAC is voluntary for both parties.

Specific features to note are:

  • Natural gas is expressly included within the definition of product.
     
  • The consumer bears the burden of proving the existence of a defect and causation.
     
  • If the injured person is at fault, the producer’s liability may be reduced or even cancelled.
     
  • A supplier may be held liable not only if the producer cannot be identified but also if the supplier knew that the product was defective.
     
  • Claims must be brought within three years from the date on which the injured person suffered the damage.
     
  • Claims by the producer against other jointly liable producers to recover compensation paid must be brought within one year of the compensation having been paid.
     
  • The government may establish a compulsory insurance policy for product liability and a warranty fund for personal injuries, intoxication and death.
     
  • Spain has set € 63,106,270.96 as the cap for a producer’s total liability for damages resulting from death or personal injury caused by identical items with the same defect.
     
  • In accordance with EU legislation, Spain has introduced a rapid alert system (RAPEX) for products which pose a serious risk and a mechanism for products to be withdrawn from the market if they are likely to put the health and safety of consumers at risk (food, toys and pharmaceuticals, among others, are covered by specific intervention systems).
     
  • At a national level, Spain’s Safety Regulation provides that manufacturers or distributors who become aware (or who ought to have become aware) of the fact that a product supplied to consumers in Spain poses a risk must immediately communicate this to the respective autonomous community (regional government) where the product was distributed. If more than one autonomous community is affected, the autonomous community of the registered address of the product manufacturer or distributor should be informed, so that, in turn, the National Institute of Consumption (INC) and other affected autonomous communities are informed.
     
  • Administrative penalties for noncompliance with consumer legislation range from fines of € 3,005.06 for minor infringements up to a five-year shutdown of the company’s operations and a penalty of € 601,012.10 or five times the value of affected products or services for very serious infringements. 

Regulation         

Consumer protection policy is a responsibility shared between the state (central government) and, within the respective territories, each of the seventeen autonomous communities (being regional governments). Thus, in parallel to national legislation and authorities, autonomous communities also have passed their respective general laws on protection of consumers and users and created regional administrative structures for consumer protection.

Each autonomous community is responsible for the enforcement of consumer legislation and market control in its respective territory. This is usually entrusted to a specific department within the regional administration. Coordination among such regional departments and central government is assured through a standing coordination committee. Within the central government, the Ministry of Health and Consumption (MSC) promotes and coordinates strategies and legislation on consumer protection. It also manages the relationship with EU authorities.

Within the MSC, INC is the central government’s public agency for consumer matters. INC also assumes overall responsibility in Spain for coordinating and cooperating with EU consumer policy.

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Note past results are not guarantees of future results. Each matter is individual and will be decided on its own facts.