Latest update: 04/10/2017

Directive 85/374/EEC - liability for defective products

of 25 July 1985 on the approximation of the laws, regulations and administrative provisions of the Member States concerning liability for defective products.


The Directive establishes the principle that the producer of a product is liable for damages caused by a defect in his product.


The term "product" means all movables, with the exception of primary agricultural products and game, even though incorporated into another movable or into an immovable and it also includes electricity.

Producer in the sense of the Directive means the manufacturer of a finished product, the producer of any raw material or of a component part and any person who presents himself as producer by trade mark or name. The supplier shall be treated as producer unless he identifies the producer or pre-supplier.

A product is defective when it does not provide the safety a person is entitled to expect. It is not defective if only a improved product is subsequently available.

It is the person suffering the damage who has to prove the damage, the defect of the product and the causality between both. Damage can be material or health damage. National laws on non-material damage are not affected by the Directive.


The Directive contains an exculpation clause for the producer (e.g. if he can prove that he did not put the product into circulation, that the product was not defective when put into circulation, that the product was not produced for economic purposes, that the defect is due to compliance of the product with mandatory regulations issued by the public authorities, that the state of scientific and technical knowledge at the time when he put the product into circulation was not such as to enable the existence of the defect to be discovered, etc.).

The liability of the producer in relation to the injured person arising from the Directive can not be limited by other provisions.

Member States shall provide in their legislation that a limitation period of three years shall apply to proceedings for the recovery of damages as provided for in this Directive. The limitation period shall begin to run from the day on which the plaintiff became aware, or should reasonably have become aware, of the damage, the defect and the identity of the producer.

Read the full text of the consolidated version of the Directive (including later amendments)

Read the full text of the original Directive

National laws implementing this Directive

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