Devices that are not secure are an open invitation to hackers. In an increasingly interconnected world, the damage that might be caused as a result could reach an unprecedented scale. Imagine if a smart home system inadvertently opened the front door of a property and thereby facilitated a burglary. Who would be liable for the damage? Scenarios like this are not properly covered by the current German Product Liability Act. This Act is based on a 30-year-old EU Directive and was therefore created with a society in mind that did not have smartphones, autonomous vehicles or voice-operated, web-based personal assistants. The liability issues of the digital age are not appropriately regulated. Consumers are often left to pick up the bill because it is not possible to identify a specific party who caused the damage. This is particularly true in the case of connected devices, because it may not be possible to attribute the responsibility for any damage definitively to a specific device or manufacturer. vzbv therefore advocates a fundamental reform of current product liability legislation that takes account of these new trends and technologies.
The new liability rules need pay particular attention to the topic of autonomous and connected vehicles. Manufacturers are responsible for the proper functioning of their automated assistance systems. The liability for such a system should therefore also lie first and foremost with its manufacturer. Strict liability should begin to apply at the production stage of an automated vehicle, not only once the vehicle is purchased. It must be ensured that consumers understand all relevant risks and liability rules that apply to each level of automation.