EU High Court Clarifies Europe’s Lemon Law

     (CN) – The EU high court on Thursday hammered out the continent’s used-car lemon law, finding that vehicle problems occurring within six months of delivery also existed at time of sale.
     Dutch citizen Froukje Faber bought a used car from a garage in May 2008. The car caught fire four months later during a trip and was completely destroyed.
     Faber sued the garage, which denied liability. It also scrapped the car – making technical discovery into the cause of the fire impossible.
     A Dutch court rejected Faber’s claims, finding the woman waited too long to put the garage on notice that she intended to hold it liable.
     On appeal, the regional court of Arnhem-Leeuwarden asked the European Court of Justice whether it should take up Faber’s status as a consumer though she had not relied on that status. The appeals court also asked whether the statute of limitations on the Netherlands’ lemon law complied with EU consumer law.
     The Luxembourg-based court on Thursday ruled that Faber must be considered a consumer, regardless of whether she invoked her rights as such.
     Furthermore, the high court ruled that Faber effectively notified the garage of the warranty issue when she had the burned-out car towed there after the fire and had no duty at that stage to provide evidence of the car’s problems.
     However, whether Faber provided enough detail to put the garage on notice is for the Dutch court to decide, the EU court said.
     As for the EU’s lemon law, the court said warranty issues that surface within six months of delivery are presumed to have already existed “in embryonic form” when the vehicle was sold – shifting the burden of proof from consumer to seller.
     “That relaxation of the burden of proof in favor of the consumer is based on the determination that where the lack of conformity becomes apparent only subsequent to the time of delivery of the goods, it is ‘well-nigh impossible for consumers’ to prove that that lack of conformity existed at the time of delivery, whereas it is generally far easier for the professional to demonstrate that the lack of conformity was not present at the time of delivery and that it resulted, for example, from improper handling by the consumer,” the court wrote in its 8-page opinion.
     Once Faber made her basic case that the car did not conform to warranty, “it is therefore for the professional seller to provide evidence that the lack of conformity did not exist at the time of delivery of the goods, by establishing that the cause or origin of that lack of conformity is to be found in an act or omission which took place after that delivery,” the court wrote.
     If that garage cannot prove that Faber’s negligence caused the fire, she can reap the benefits of the EU’s lemon law – something the Dutch appeals court will have to decide, the court concluded.

%d bloggers like this: