ELI President Gives this Year’s Institute for European and Comparative Law Annual Lecture (IECL) in Oxford


On 5 May 2022, ELI’s President, Prof Dr Pascal Pichonnaz gave the IECL annual lecture entitled ‘Real Challenges for a New Regime of Product Liability in the Age of Artificial Intelligence’ at Oxford University.

At the end of 2021, the EU Commission launched a public consultation tackling the issue whether and how to improve the Product Liability Directive (PLD) and to determine how to address issues relating to damage caused by Artificial Intelligence. ELI filed a response to this consultation and has now also embarked on a project aimed at adapting the PLD to concretise some of the issues raised in the response. Products often include digital elements, an issue which was not considered when the PLD was adopted in 1985.

In light of this, Prof Dr Pichonnaz addressed several challenging questions such as: Does it mean that the PLD regime should be extended to products with digital elements? If this path were followed, how should such products be defined? Would, for instance, updates to the digital components of products be treated differently? How should one assess a causal link when one of the main features of some digital component is interoperability, where there is therefore a risk that the origin of a defective product lies in bad data provided by others? Do the specificities of AI justify a modification of the burden of proof, and if so, in what situations? Moreover, would an extension of the PLD to encompass digital content leave some room for a specific set of rules creating AI liability?

The presentation was followed by a lively Q&A discussion.