Safety of goods in Latvia
When purchasing a product, we usually assume that it is of good quality, it will meet our requirements and be safe for everyday use. The responsibility for safety of the respective product lies with its manufacturer. A product is considered safe if there is no risk of harm to human life, health, property, as well as the environment. The Paragraph 4 of the Section 3 of the Consumer Rights Protection Law stipulates that if a consumer purchases an unsafe product or receives an unsafe service, it is considered a violation of consumer rights. The provisions governing the safety of goods are included in the Law on the Safety of Goods and Services.
The concept of 'safe goods'
It is essential to clarify the concept of 'safe goods'. The Paragraph 1 of the Section 5 of the Law on the Safety of Goods and Services states that safe goods are any commodity which under normal or foreseeable conditions of use, during its service life, and, where applicable, if used as a part of a service, provided that the requirements of installation and maintenance are complied with, does not present risk or presents only minimum risk related to the use of the commodity, that is considered to be acceptable and consistent with a high level of safety for human life, health, property and the environment. It means that if goods are used as intended or in a way that a manufacturer should have anticipated, they must be safe, namely, they cannot cause any harm whatsoever. In order to put goods into circulation, conformity assessment and special requirements must be fulfilled for certain categories of goods to ensure their safety. Also, the European Union legislation (for example, The General Product Safety Directive (GPSD)) governs the safety of goods.
Safe goods are also marked with the CE symbol. This marking proves that the respective goods comply with the EU production standards. It is mandatory for certain groups of products, such as toys and electric appliances. However, the CE marking by itself does not guarantee the safety of goods.
What affects the safety of goods?
Upon evaluating the safety of a product, one must take into account its construction, characteristics, composition and packaging, as well as its installation and maintenance requirements. If a product may become unsafe due to wrong installation, then it is crucial for its manufacturer to supplement the product with a correct and accurate installation guide. Also, it is very important that any product complies with all requirements of the laws and regulations regarding its use. If goods are not subject to particular or specific safety requirements, for example, as it is in the case of beds, then their safety must be evaluated in accordance with the recommendations by the European Commission, generally accepted standards for the use of goods, the code of good manufacturing practices and based on the safety reasonably expected by consumers when they purchase and use the goods.
In case when a consumer is not notified of the safety of a product or the product is not supplemented with a use and installation guide, such product is considered unsafe. If upon evaluating the safety of a product it can be reasonably expected that this product will be used together with one or more other products, their mutual impact must be taken into account. For example, dishes and containers used for food must comply with higher standards than those used for other purposes.
Another essential aspect for evaluating the safety of goods is the markings on packaging, as well as the presentation and appearance of the goods, the packaging itself and various kinds of instructions related to the goods. It is because confusing and inaccurate information may render the goods unsafe for consumers.
What are the consumer rights in case of purchasing unsafe goods?
If an unsafe product has caused any type of harm to a person, the environment or person’s property, the consumer is entitled to do the following:
- To notify the competent market surveillance authority, because the respective product may also cause harm to other consumers. Thus, the market surveillance authority will be able to ensure that this product is no longer sold or to carry out cautionary measures.
- The consumer is entitled to reimbursement. The application for damages should be addressed to the manufacturer of the product or distributor of the product, if the manufacturer is not known. If the consumer wishes to receive back the sum of money paid for the unsafe product, he or she must first go to the trader and present a receipt confirming the purchase. An application for damages must be submitted within three years from the day when the consumer became aware or should have become aware of the defective goods or deficient services, of the losses incurred by him or her and the person responsible for reimbursement (Section 14 of the Law 'On Liability for Defective Goods and Deficient Services').
If it is not possible to resolve the disagreement among the trader, distributor and manufacturer of the product and the consumer, the latter is entitled to seek help from the Consumer Rights Protection Centre (CRPC).
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