Lifel­ong obli­ga­ti­on for manu­fac­tu­r­ers to sup­p­ly spa­re parts?

Alt­hough manu­fac­tu­r­ers have a big inte­rest in manu­fac­tu­ring high-quality pro­ducts, it is only natu­ral that their pro­ducts will even­tual­ly stop working, in who­le or in part. A defec­ti­ve pro­duct can often be repai­red by repla­cing indi­vi­du­al com­pon­ents. Many buy­ers pre­fer to have their pro­ducts repai­red rather than incur the expen­se of buy­ing a new pro­duct. But they can­not do so if the manu­fac­tu­rer choo­ses to dis­con­ti­nue pro­duc­tion (of spa­re parts for) the product.

This rai­ses the ques­ti­on as to how long manu­fac­tu­r­ers are requi­red to sup­p­ly con­su­mers with neces­sa­ry spa­re parts.

Only recent­ly, in its Order of 18 Febru­ary 2019, the Hig­her Regio­nal Court of Frank­furt am Main made a state­ment as to the cir­cum­s­tances under which manu­fac­tu­r­ers or importers are requi­red to do so (Hig­her Regio­nal Court of Frank­furt am Main, Order of 18 Febru­ary 2019 – Case No. 13 U 186/17).


Manu­fac­tu­r­ers are requi­red in each case to con­ti­nue sup­p­ly­ing spa­re parts for two years for a peri­od of two years after their pro­duct goes off the mar­ket so that their B2B cus­to­mers will have access to the appro­pria­te parts and are in a posi­ti­on to offer them to their cus­to­mers who purcha­sed their pro­ducts under war­ran­ty. Manu­fac­tu­r­ers and dea­lers may reach con­trac­tu­al arran­ge­ments which go bey­ond this period.


In most cases, the­re is no purcha­se agree­ment bet­ween the buy­er and the manu­fac­tu­rer on which such a cla­im can be based. But in prac­ti­ce, manu­fac­tu­r­ers some­ti­mes adver­ti­se their pro­ducts by gua­ran­te­e­ing that ori­gi­nal spa­re parts will be available for a cer­tain peri­od of time. In gene­ral, such manu­fac­tu­rer gua­ran­tees may be used to deri­ve con­trac­tu­al claims for the con­su­mer against the manu­fac­tu­rer direct­ly so that the manu­fac­tu­rer would be requi­red to sup­p­ly spa­re parts for the enti­re­ty of the adver­ti­sed period.

In its Order, the Hig­her Regio­nal Court stres­sed that no rule of law exists in eit­her Ger­man law or EU con­su­mer law on which con­su­mers could base a cla­im to deli­very of spa­re parts throug­hout the pro­duc­t’s enti­re life cycle.

On the other hand, the Hig­her Regio­nal Court found that such a duty may exist if the­re is a spe­cial trust-based rela­ti­onship bet­ween the manu­fac­tu­rer and the cus­to­mer (good faith, § 242 of the Civil Code). Howe­ver, such a rela­ti­onship can only be assu­med if the­re are spe­ci­fic cir­cum­s­tances which sup­port the view that the rela­ti­onship is cha­rac­te­ri­zed by extra­or­di­na­ry trust. The Hig­her Regio­nal Court of Frank­furt ruled that the case pre­sen­ted by the end cus­to­mer who was the plain­ti­ff in that case, who sim­ply argued that the manu­fac­tu­rer has an inte­rest in ensu­ring that ori­gi­nal parts are instal­led in its vehic­les, was ulti­m­ate­ly not enough to estab­lish such a gene­ral duty. 

Prac­ti­cal tip

In B2B rela­ti­onships, it is advi­sa­ble to reach a con­trac­tu­al arran­ge­ment defi­ning a fixed peri­od for the sup­p­ly of spa­re parts so that all par­ties can be assu­red of plan­ning cer­tain­ty. If spa­re parts are available for many years, this will have a posi­ti­ve impact on cus­to­mer satis­fac­tion as well as kee­ping cus­to­mers from buy­ing third-party accessories.


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