All about bicycles, electric-assisted bikes, technology and safety in the press

In our daily work as we deal with bicycle safety, technology and user manuals we come across lots of safety risks. The most frequent ones are published in articles of the leading German special-interest magazines TOUR – Europas Rennrad-Magazin Nr. 1, BIKE – Das Mountainbike Magazin Europas Nr. 1 and E-Bike – Das Pedelec-Magazin to make this information important for the sector accessible to a wider public.

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SAZbike 22/2015
Reading time 3:00 minutes

Beware of liability pitfalls in the cycle industry

Thanks to e-bikes a fresh breeze has been blowing through the cycle industry. To make sure this breeze doesn’t turn into a destructive hurricane in the years to come, there are yet a few things to be put on the right track. Courts and trade supervisory authorities take an increased focus on the bicycle manufacturers and dealers and many of them are not yet prepared to it. In order to outline legal pitfalls and problems at an early stage, the bicycle expert Dirk Zedler (Zedler institute) organizes together with the lawyer Daniel Wuhrmann (Reuschlaw) a business brunch in Schweinfurt.

As early as at the beginning of the event Dirk Zedler states "Only by pulling together the cycle industry will continue making good progress", and herewith addresses to the about 50 participants who had come to the Sram Development Center in Schweinfurt on November 13. The background of the joint invitation of the Zedler institute and the lawyer’s office Reuschlaw were the legal questions the cycle industry will have to face in future. Especially due to the big issue e-bikes, courts would judge the cycle industry in a different light. This would result in different judgements compared to that made in former years. "In this point there are still shortcomings in the industry", states bicycle expert Dirk Zedler. Together with the lawyer Daniel Wuhrmann specialized on liability law he gave the participants a detailed overview of the issues which needed further attention in future.

In a theoretical introduction the legal expert Wuhrmann explained the four organizational duties to be considered during production. These points apply to all market participants bringing a product on the market, i.e. also to dealers offering own-brand bicycles for sale. Point 1 refers to construction: Every manufacturer is obliged to construct their products in a way that they bear as less risks as possible and comply with the latest state of the art in science and technology. Point 2 refers to fabrication: i.e. every producer has to make sure that the product remains free of faults during the production process. That means that the manufacturer must supervise their suppliers and make available an appropriate documentation. As regards point 3 he had a closer look on the instruction. This refers to the warnings for the final user which explain the appropriate use as well as the inappropriate use of the product. As final point the monitoring of the market is of decisive importance. Every manufacturer is obliged to observe the market and to take the respective measures to avoid any possible damage. This is one of the main reasons for recalls. Subsequently, the legal and the bicycle expert explained these four points and the obligations resulting thereof in detail with current examples and court decisions.

Market monitoring also in social networks

In particular the last point, i.e. the obligation to monitor the market, was currently facing major changes. To date manufacturers are obliged to follow reports concerning the recalls of competitors and to provide themselves with information from special interest magazines and to take respective measures. The latest court judgements show, however, that manufacturers have to observe the market proactively, with a special focus on the social networks and the internet forums. As soon as problems are discussed on these platforms, the manufacturers have to react with respective additional tests and to document them. The individual complaints must be catalogued in the so-called book of complaints and each complaint has to be checked. Furthermore, the manufacturers must substantiate, no matter whether by mail exchange, organisation chart or witnesses, that a functioning system was set up in the company to observe and monitor the market.

If such evidence cannot be made available and if the products are involved in accidents, this can lead very quickly to severe penalties. According to both experts, direct-to-customer retailers had an advantage: Due to the direct communication with the final users, they could respond much more effective in the case of shortcomings. On the other hand, specialist brands had the problem that the dealers would "block" the process. Therefore, "the quality management must get faster", requests Zedler and calls on manufacturers and dealers to attend to their duty by improving their communication and by handling the problems faster.


Author: Thomas Geisler

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