The committee started working already in 1998. Six boards, each under national chairmanship, worked out the standards (see box). Because of the initial situation with many countries having standards stipulating different demands and different testing approaches, some compromises had to be made. The unanimous vote in favour of the standards – except for the children’s bicycle standard – was considered proof that the work done was good. Sweden voted against the children’s bicycle standard as up to now, only back-pedal brakes were allowed for children’s bicycles.
When the standards have been passed, the participating countries publish them by the middle of March 2006. Six months after publication at the latest, the existing standards have to be withdrawn. This should be the case by November or December. When standards are harmonized, some trade barriers will be a thing of the past. Distribution of bicycles within Europe will be a lot easier as many products will "only" have to meet CEN and not another standard in every country. These CEN tests can be conducted either inhouse or by an independent testing institute. If the CEN standard is met, goods can be shipped across the border. Neuberger admitted, however, that the standards were not binding. They are guidelines for safe products serving consumer protection only.
The legal situation was also the topic of the Italian lawyer Massimo Casini who is member of the Italian manufacturers’ association ANCMA. According to him, the EU commission set itself to protecting consumers and therefore passed some directives in the past few years. Apart from the generally formulated safety demands no further rules for bicycles have been decided upon (exception: children’s toy bikes up to a saddle height of 435 mm). The consequence: A product can be considered safe by a judge in one country, in another it is not because of different standards. A uniform standard is a protection against judicial arbitrariness and therefore an important step towards a legally stable situation for bicycle manufacturers operating in Europe. Casini recommended manufacturers to reorganize themselves as soon as the new testing standards have been published as otherwise the risk would remain.
Profound information about the designated use
Complete documentation is necessary
Insurance product manager Kristel de Jonghe took almost the same line when dedicating a big part of her lecture to the documentation essential for manufacturers. Only a manufacturer who documents the production chain of his bicycles including all parts down to the suppliers of raw material and who can assign them to every single bicycle even after years, has the prospect of setting up a promising defense strategy in case of liability (see box). If parts are bought from suppliers, they should be tested according to the new standards. The respective records have to be asked for and archived.
Contracts can regulate, ie, allocate liability risks between supplier and buyer, but not with consumers. In case of liability, compensation has to be effected according to European law. Therefore it was important for everyone in the production chain to take out a product liability insurance of an adequate amount. What is adequate is determined by the risk posed by the product and the possible compensation amount. The desicion how many cases of loss per year, i.e. assembly groups are to be insured has a lot of influence, just as well as the measures taken to assure quality in assembly an production and the countries the products are to be exported to. Exports to the US and Canada are usually excluded from standard insurance contracts and have to be agreed upon seperately. It is important to know that a product liability insurance covers third party only and not inhouse claims. A percentage excess of 10 per cent per insurance case is standard practice.
Kristel de Jonghe reminded manufacturers to think of possible recalls in time. Possible recall scenarios should be anticipated and prepared. The cost can quickly increase to sums causing a manufacturer financial difficulties. Therefore, it is important to take out not only a product liability insurance, but also a recall policy. These insurances not only cover immediate material damage, but also costs arising from measures taken to enhance constomer trust. In the following discussion the most urgent question from the audience was the point in time manufacturers had to work conforming the new standards. As to that there were different opinions. The most plausible one with regard to the product liability law gave podium participant Eddie Ecclestone of PCM Group/BAGB. He pointed out that judges would refer to the state-of-the-art when taking decisions in law suits. The state-of-the-art was newly defined when publishing the new standards. Therefore the point in time was now.
The standards and their scope
The "safety demands and test methods" laid down in the CEN standards concern load-carrying and safety-related parts of different bicycle types and determine the content of owner’s and maintenance manuals. The test proceedings comprise for almost all parts static stress tests, impact tests and dynamic fatigue tests. It is not about quality demands in general, therefore the problem of sharp edges is not considered, for example. Not included either are bicycle lights as there are different laws in the individual European countries which differ considerably depending on the respective country’s requirement specifications.
The CEN technical committee 22 "bicycles" passed the following standards. They will be implemented by the individual countries, i.e. basically translated, and will replace the existing country standards by the end of the year. In Germany, DIN EN 14764 will be valid then, DIN 79100 will be withdrawn.
- EN 14764 city and trekking bicycles
- maximum height of seat post: 635 mm or above
- designated to use in road traffic
- exceptions: Load-carrying bikes, recumbent bikes, mountainbikes, road bikes, special bikes used in competitions and tandems
EN 14765 children’s bicycles
- maximum height of seat post: 435 mm to 635 mm
- exceptions: BMX bicycles, children’s bicycles with a maximum height of seat post up to 435 mm. They are covered by EN 71
EN 14766 mountain bikes
- maximum height of seat post: 635 mm and above
- designated to off-road use and rough terrain, total weight taken as a basis: 100 kg
- exceptions: road bikes and special bikes like tandems and bikes designated to the use in tough fields like authorized competitions, bike tricks or jumps/drops
EN 14781 road bikes
- maximum height of seat post: 635 mm and above
- designated to the non-professional high-speed use in road traffic, total weight taken as a basis: 100 kg
- exceptions: moutainbikes and special bikes such as tandems or bikes constructed and equipped for use in authorized competitions
Standards for electrically supported bikes, carriers, locks and specific bike terminology are already in the making. Standards for bike-trailers, BMX bikes and other are planned.
Defense possibilities in liability cases
Condition: There is a complete documentation of where the goods or parts came from and where they were shipped to. Defense based on the state of the art means arguing that the product met the highest standards available for construction, function and safety when putting it into circulation.
- the product was not faulty when it was put into circulation
- there were no safe products on the market at that point in time
- science and engineering did not allow for better products to be made
Defense based on development risk:
- the product was faulty when it was put into circulation. According to the state-of-the-art of science and technology at that time, it was however impossible to discover the fault.
Further defense possibilities:
- the product was not put into circulation by the manufacturer (theft, plagiarism, modifications)
- the fault occurred as a result of binding rules from public authorities
- only possible for manufacturers of an individual component or part: The fault was caused by the manufacturer’s design or instructions of the final product.
Countries where the bicycle CEN is valid:
Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Great Britain, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Austria, Poland, Portugal, Rumania, Sweden, Switzerland, Slovenia, Slovakia, Spain, Czech Republic, Hungary, Cyprus
Author: Dirk Zedler