[EDITORIALS]Don't rush product liabilityThe Product Liability Act, which will alter fundamentally the concept of consumer protection, is slated to go into effect in July. But we are concerned whether the government and corporations can deal with the repercussions and shocks the implementation of the act will bring. They are ill-prepared for the enforcement of the law despite a two-and-a-half year grace period after the enactment.
The Product Liability Act precludes consideration of fault on the consumer's part when an injury is proved to be caused by defects or dangerous elements in the products.
The burden of proof, which has been carried by consumers when they are injured or incur financial damage because of defects in products, will rest with manufacturers. Companies will have to pay damages. Consequently, the responsibility for manufacturers will expand.
Consumers will be empowered. Since Japan implemented the product liability law in 1995, the number of lawsuits filed by consumers doubled to more than 1,000 cases a year. Large conglomerates in Korea are relatively better prepared for the law. But small and medium-sized firms are, to put it bluntly, in a vulnerable position. According to a survey on 127 manufacturers by the Small Business Corp., only 0.7 percent of the respondents had a team in charge of consumer suits.
The introduction of product liability law is a global trend. Companies cannot afford to oppose the law. If manufacturers can manage the quality and safety of their products they can step up their competitiveness in the globalized era.
If the law is enforced, the visible and invisible burden on corporations other than paying damages will be enormous. The general public would have to have a proper understanding of the law. Companies have to put priority on consumer safety from the stages of product development and design. Small and medium-sized firms would have to employ personnel that are dedicated to the issue, and they would have to buy liability insurance. The government has to hire experts and support product liability consulting centers, which will perform arbitration. The government must also make efforts to minimize any adverse impact on corporate activities.