, Volume 31, Issue 2, pp 217-241
Date: 25 Mar 2008

Europeanisation of Product Liability in the Asia-Pacific Region: A Preliminary Empirical Benchmark

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Abstract

This report draws primarily on a survey offering a tentative but empirical benchmark of the impact of strict-liability product liability law reforms in the Asia-Pacific Region. There has been a two-fold Europeanisation of product liability in this region. First, the reforms implemented in many jurisdictions during the last 15 years have usually been based on the 1985 EC Product Liability Directive. Secondly, moving beyond the “law in books,” the survey confirms other indications of considerable convergence in the “law in action.” This largely mirrors trends from Lovells’ baseline survey of European jurisdictions completed in 2002 for the European Commission. Similar effects associated with similar reforms include small but significant increases in claims, settlements, and reactions from companies. However, these tendencies are also affected by broader (arguably inter-related) factors such as shifts in consumer consciousness and media attention. Rather than the reforms directly, increased awareness of consumer rights and the media have been identified as being more influential to the increase in claims. These factors are also very important in generating more settlements. Conventional causes of action also continue to be invoked, and there is not much call for further reform. Thus, high levels of product liability litigation remain unique to the United States. However, growing case law in certain Asia-Pacific and European jurisdictions might be synthesised into “Strict Liability Product Liability Principles.” It also seems likely that the Asia-Pacific region will continue to follow more the EU in related areas such as consumer access to justice and product safety regulation, and such harmonization may accompany the proliferating Free Trade Agreements in the region.