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The Constitutional Court has confirmed a decision upholding an action brought by the attorney for human rights against the ministers of economy and energy and mines. The action accused the authorities of inaction and non-compliance with their obligation to safeguard consumer and user rights by failing to protect consumers against the National Energy Commission's approval of adjustments to electricity rates.
The Directorate of Attention and Assistance to the Consumer (DIACO) is the administrative unit responsible for the implementation of the Consumer Protection Act, which establishes the minimum consumer rights and guarantees that cannot be waived, as they are considered a matter of public order and interest. DIACO's operations cover a wide range of enforcement activities and include several extensive new initiatives.
The Department for Consumer Welfare was established to guide, assist and inform consumers regarding the quality, quantity, weight and other characteristics of the goods and services available on the market. Nevertheless, the existing legislation fails to provide a suitable framework for matters directly related to product liability.
The Constitution obliges the government to protect the health, safety and economic interests of consumers. However, no product liability statutes are currently in force. Although the Consumer and Users Protection Act 1985 was passed to promote and defend consumer rights by establishing certain penalties and procedures, it has largely failed to provide a general framework for product liability issues.
In a product liability context, Guatemalan law establishes certain administrative proceedings that may arise under the Consumer Protection Act, and some proceedings may lead to the initiation of commercial arbitration if both parties agree. However, liability arising from the sale, distribution, commercialisation or supply of defective or dangerous products is almost invariably considered in an ordinary trial.
The main issue relating to the production of evidence of damage suffered because of a defective product (on grounds other than breach of contract) is that a claimant need prove only that the victim sustained damage. As negligence - the main source of liability - is presumed, a defendant in a product liability action must either disprove the claimant's facts or show that damage occurred as a result of the victim's inexcusable negligence.