Skip to main content Accessibility help

The Product Liability Directive and Rome II Article 5: ‘Full Harmonisation’ and the Conflict of Laws

  • Simon Whittaker


This article considers the possible relationship between EU legislation governing private international law and legislation governing substantive law in the light of recent moves towards ‘full harmonisation’ and calls for greater consistency and coherence in European law-making. For this purpose, it considers the Product Liability Directive and the special product liability provisions in Article 5 of the Rome II Regulation on the law applicable to non-contractual obligations and asks how the understanding of ‘product liability’ compares in these two instruments, especially in relation to the distinctions between public and private law, general and special regulation and contract and tort.



Hide All

1 Dir 2004/18/EC on the coordination of procedures for the award of public works contracts, public supply contracts and public service contracts, OJ 2004 L134/114 Arts 1, 2 and 3.

2 Dir 2000/78/EC establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation [2000] OJ L303/16.

3 Reg (EC) No 44/2001 on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters (Brussels I) [2001] OJ L12/1 Art 1(2)(b) excluding from its scope ‘bankruptcy, proceedings relating to the winding-up of insolvent companies’.

4 Reg (EC) No 1346/2000 on insolvency proceedings, [2000] OJ L160/1.

5 Ibid, Art 1(2).

6 Dir 2001/24/EC on the reorganisation and winding up of credit institutions, OJ L125/15; Dir 2001/17/EC on the reorganisation and winding-up of insurance undertakings, OJ L110/28.

7 In interpreting the Insolvency Reg, the European Court in Case C-341/04 Eurofood IFC Ltd [2006] ECR I-3813 paras 60–63 relied on its existing ‘transposable’ case law on the Brussels Convention on jurisdiction and the recognition of judgments (which the Brussels I Reg superceded) in Case C-7/98 Krombach [2000] ECR 1-1935.

8 Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament on European Contract Law COM (2001) 398 final; Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council A More Coherent European Contract Law, An Action Plan COM (2003) 68 final; European Contract Law and the revision of the acquis: the way forward COM (2004) 651 final; EU Commission Green Paper on policy options on progress towards a European Contract Law for consumers and businesses COM (2010) 348 final (1 July 2010).

9 European Commission, Proposal for a Dir on Consumer Rights, COM (2008) 614 final (9 October 2008) (hereinafter ‘Consumer Rights Dir Proposal’). The EU Council has announced that a compromise (and much reduced) text restricted in effect to two earlier direc tives) has been agreed: EU Council press release 11699/11 (16 June 2011).

10 The possible uses to which such a ‘CFR’ can be put are outlined in the Green Paper, above n 7. The Commission has published a ‘feasibility study’ for this purpose at ec.europa. eu/justice/contract/files/feasibility-study_en.pdf.

11 [2003] OJ C321/01.

12 Hesselink, MThe Ideal of Codification and the Dynamics of Europeanisation: the Dutch Experience’ in Vogenauer, S and Weatherill, S, The Harmonisation of European Contract Law, Implications for European Private Laws, Business and Legal Practice (Oxford, Hart Publishing, 2006) 39, 62–69; Whittaker, SForm and Substance in the Reception of EC Directives into English Contract Law’ (2007) 3 European Review of Contract Law 381, 394–97.

13 This ‘minimum harmonisation’ can be seen first explicitly in the Dir of 1993 on unfair terms in consumer contracts Dir 93/13/EC, [1993] OJ L95/29 Art 8.

14 Dir 2005/29/EC concerning unfair business-to-consumer commercial practices in the internal market. [2005] OJ L149/22 Arts 3(2), 4.

15 Dir 2008/48/EC on credit agreements for consumers and repealing Council Dir 87/102/ EEC [2008] OJ L133/66.

16 Dir 2008/122/EC on the protection of consumers in respect of certain aspects of time-share, long-term holiday product, resale and exchange contracts, recital 3 stating that ‘certain aspects of the marketing, sale and resale of timeshares and long-term holiday products as well as the exchange of rights deriving from timeshare contracts should be fully harmonised’.

17 Consumer Rights Dir Proposal, Art 4 on which see Whittaker, SUnfair Terms and Consumer Guarantees: the Proposal for a Directive on Consumer Rights and the Significance of “Full Harmonisation”’ (2009) ERCL 2 .

18 For example, the Time-share Dir 2008/122/EC as noted above n 16.

19 Brussels I Reg; Reg (EC) No 593/2008 on the law applicable to contractual obligations (Rome I) [2008] OJ L177/6 (the Rome I Reg); Basedow, JThe Communitarisation of the Conflict of Laws under the Treaty of Amsterdam’ (2000) 37 Common Market Law Review 687 .

20 Reg (EC) 864/2007 on the law applicable to non-contractual obligations (Rome II) (the Rome II Reg), [2007] OJ L199/40.

21 Dir 1985/374/EEC on the approximation of laws, regulations and administrative provisions of the Member States concerning liability for defective products, [2985] OJ L210/29.

22 Case C-52/00 Commission v France [2002] I-3827; Case C-154/00 Commission v Greece [2002] ECR I-3879; Case C-183/00 Gonzàlez Sanchez v Medicina Asturiana SA [2002] ECR I-3901.

23 See also the excellent comparison of ‘marketing’ under Rome II Art 5 and ‘putting into circulation’ under the Product Liability Dir in Dickinson, A, The Rome II Regulation—The Law Applicable to Non-contractual Obligations (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2008) paras 5.18–5.25 esp at 5.23.

24 Muir-Watt, H, ‘The Role of Conflict of Laws in European Private Law’ in Twigg-Flesner, C (ed) European Union Private Law (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2010) 44, 48.

25 Brussels I, recitals 16 and 17.

26 Recital 15.

27 Above p 438.

28 Muir-Watt, above n 24, 48–49.

29 Arts 15–16.

30 Art 6.

31 Recital 20, Rome II and see below pp 444–45.

32 Whittaker, S, Liability for Products: English Law, French Law, and European Harmonisation (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2005) 436–40.

33 Dir 374/1985/EEC recital 1 referring to the need for harmonisation.

34 Case C-52/00 Commission v France; Case C-154/00 Commission v Greece; Case C-183/00 Gonzàlez Sanchez v Medicina Asturiana SA and see Whittaker Liability for Products above n 32, 440–44.

35 The explicit options are found in Art 15 as regards the ‘development risk defence’ in Art 7(e) and Art 16(1) as regards an overall financial limit on liability. Implicit options can be seen as regards ‘non-material damage’ in Art 9 in fine and ‘contributory fault’ in the injured party in Art 8(2).

36 Case C-402/03 Skov AEg v Bilka Lavprisvarehus A/S [2006] ECR I-199 noted by S Whittaker in ‘Form and Substance in the Harmonisation of Product Liability in Europe’ (2007) Zeitschrift für Europäisches Privatrecht 858.

37 1985 Dir, Art 3(3); Case 52/00 Commission v France paras 36–40.

38 1985 Dir, Art 9; Case C-285/08 Moteurs Leroy Somer paras 28–32. The expression ‘consumer property’ is used for convenience to denote ‘property [which] is of a type ordinarily intended for private use or consumption and [which] was used by the injured mainly for his own private use or consumption’.

39 See further Dickinson, above n 23, Ch 5; A Rushworth and A Scott, ‘Rome II: Choice of law for non-contractual obligations’ (2008) Lloyd’s Maritime and Commercial Law Quarterly 274.

40 de Boer, TThe Purpose of Uniform Choice-of-Law Rules: the Rome II Regulation56 Netherlands International Law Review (2009) 318—esp at 319–22 who concludes at 322 that ‘the only objectives that can actually be achieved by the “cascade of connecting factors” of Article 5 are fair competition and the “facilitation of trade”, if the latter objective can be equated with the removal of obstacles to the free movement of goods. … The other objectives listed in recital 20 are either meaningless, or not achievable by the type of conflicts rule laid down in Article 5.’

41 Dickinson above n 23, paras 5.26 ff.

42 Art 5(2) emphasis added.

43 Below p 456.

44 Art 1386-1–1386-14 C civ and see Whittaker Liability for Products above n 32, 450–61.

45 Brussels Convention on Jurisdiction and the Enforcement of Judgments in Civil and Commercial Matters of 1968 Art 1 and see below n 58.

46 Arts 61(1) and 65(1) EC; Art 81 TFEU.

47 1985 Dir Art 3.

48 Ibid, Arts 4 and 6.

49 Ibid, Art 7.

50 Ibid, Arts 10 and 11.

51 Case C-203/99 Veedfald v Århus Amtskommune [2001] ECR 1-3569 and see Whittaker Liability for Products above n 32, 515–21.

52 Ibid, para 20.

53 Ruiz-Jarabo Colomer Opinion para 26 (emphasis added).

54 Ibid.

55 Case C 203/99 Henning Veedfald v Århus Amtskommune para 21.

56 Ibid, para 20.

57 Art 1(1) Rome II.

58 See, notably on either the Brussels Convention or Brussels I Reg: Case 29/76 Eurocontrol [1976] ECR 01542; Case 133/78 Gourdain v Nadler [1979] ECR 733; Case 814/79 The Netherlands v Rüffer [1980] ECR 3807; Case 172/91 Sonntag v Waidman [1993] ECR I-1963; Case 266/01 Préservatrice Foncière Tiard SA v The Netherlands [2003] ECR I-4867; Case C-4333/01 Freistaat Bayern v Blijdenstein [2004] ECR I-981; Case C-265/02 Frahuil SA v Assitalia SpA [2004] ECR I-1543.

59 Case 814/79 Netherlands v Rüffer [1980] ECR 3807 para 14.

60 For example, Case 266/01 para 44.

61 Whittaker, S, ‘Introduction to Fault in Product Liability’ in Whittaker, S (ed), The Development of Product Liability (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2010) 3–9.

62 Ibid, as regards the laws of England, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain.

63 Donoghue v Stevenson [1932] AC 562.

64 J-S Borghetti, ‘The Development of Product Liability in France’ in Whittaker, above n 61, 87, 91–93.

65 S Whittaker, ‘Introduction to Fault in Product Liability’ in Whittaker, above n 61, 1, 20ff.

66 American Law Institute, Restatement on Torts 2nd edn (West Publishing, St Paul, MN, first published 1965) esp para 402A .

67 Council of Europe, European Convention on products liability in regard to personal injury and death of 27 January 1977, ETS No 91.

68 The expression is Rudden’s, B: ‘Forced Transplants’ (2006) 10(1) Electronic Journal of Comparative Law .

69 Above p 439.

70 This has been particularly significant as regards France: see Borghetti above n 65, 108–13.

71 Rome II, recital 16.

72 Above pp 444–46.

73 Article 5(1) in fine.

74 Dickinson above n 23, para 5.18 ff.

75 Proposal for a Reg of the European Parliament and the Council on the law applicable to non-contractual obligations (Rome II), COM (2003) 427 final (22 July 2003).

76 House of Lords, European Union Committee, 8th Report of Session 2003–04 The Rome II Regulation, Report with Evidence HL Paper 66 (HMSO, 7 April 2004) para 105.

77 Ibid.

78 Whittaker, above n 65, 9–20 for an overview of six European national laws.

79 S Whittaker, ‘The Development of Product Liability in England’ in Whittaker, above n 61, 51, 55–77. Since 1999, an exception to this general and very strict approach is available as long as the parties intended to create a right in a third party: Contracts (Rights for Third Parties) Act 1999.

80 [1932] AC 562 above n 64.

81 J-S Borghetti, ‘The Development of Product Liability in France’ in Whittaker, above n 61, 87, 91–99.

82 Arts 1382–83, 1384 at 1 C civ respectively.

83 Arts 1642–48 C civ.

84 Whittaker, above n 32, Ch 4.

85 Civ 19 January 1965 l’affaire de Pont-Saint-Esprit D 1965.389.

86 Civ 12 Nov 1884, S 1886.1.149, DP 1885.1.357; Civ (1) 9 October 1979, D 1980. IR.222 note Larroumet, GP 1980.1.249 note Planqueel.

87 Civ (1) 15 December 1998, Bull civ no 368; Civ (1) 18 July 2000, Bull civ I no 221; Civ (1) 13 February 2001, Bull civ I no 35.

88 Case C-26/91 Jakob Handte Co GmbH v Société Traitements Mécano-chimiques des Surfaces [1992] ECR I-3967.

89 Ibid, 22.

90 Case 189/87 Kalfelis v Schröder [1988] ECR 5565, para 18.

91 Emphasis added.

92 Dir 93/13/EC, above n 14, Art 3.

93 Above pp 449–51.

94 Above p 449.

95 Rome II above n 76, 13.

96 Ibid.

97 Dickinson above n 23, paras 5.07–5.12.

98 Ibid, 369.

99 1985 Dir Art 3.

100 Recital 4.

101 Case C-52/00 Commission v France para 40.

102 Above p 442.

103 Art 3 Rome II.

104 Art 1384 al 1 C civ. Cf Rushworth and Scott above n 40, 283, who suggest a distinction between non-contractual obligations ‘arising out of damage caused by a product’ (governed by Art 5) and claims which merely concern damage caused by a product.

105 Dickinson above n 23, paras 5.07–5.09.

106 1985 Dir Art 9(b).

107 Whittaker, above n 32, 506–07.

108 Rome II Proposal 2003 Art 4.

109 Above p 443.

Related content

Powered by UNSILO

The Product Liability Directive and Rome II Article 5: ‘Full Harmonisation’ and the Conflict of Laws

  • Simon Whittaker


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.