Liability Rules for the Digital Age - Aiming for the Brussels Effect

58 Pages Posted: 10 Jan 2023

See all articles by Gerhard Wagner

Gerhard Wagner

Humboldt University School of Law; University of Chicago Law School

Date Written: January 8, 2023


With legislative proposals for two directives published in September 2022, the EU Commission aims to adapt the existing liability system to the challenges posed by digitalization. One of the proposals remains related and limited to liability for artificially intelligent systems, but the other contains nothing less than a full revision of the 1985 Product Liability Directive which lies at the heart of European tort law. Whereas the current Product Liability Directive largely followed the model of U.S. law, the revised version breaks new ground. It does not limit itself to the expansion of the concept of product to include intangible digital goods such as software and data as well related services, important enough in itself, but also targets the new intermediaries of e-commerce as liable parties. With all of that, the proposal for a new product liability directive is a great leap forward and has the potential to grow into a worldwide benchmark in the field. In comparison, the proposal of a directive on AI liability is much harder to assess. It remains questionable whether a second directive is actually needed at this stage of the technological development.

Keywords: Torts, product liability, product defect, artificial intelligence, robots, e-commerce

JEL Classification: K13

Suggested Citation

Wagner, Gerhard, Liability Rules for the Digital Age - Aiming for the Brussels Effect (January 8, 2023). Available at SSRN: or

Gerhard Wagner (Contact Author)

Humboldt University School of Law ( email )

Unter den Linden 9
Berlin, 10099

University of Chicago Law School ( email )

1111 East 60th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

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