Consumer Protection Law Given Preeminence Over The Specific Regulations For Works Contracts

Author:Mr Facundo Viel Temperley and Gabriela Alejandra Dibble
Profession:Marval O'Farrell & Mairal

A ruling from the Argentine Commercial Court of Appeals declared Consumer Protection Law No. 24,240 applicable over the specific provisions for works contracts. The Court acknowledged one of the plaintiffs standing to sue, rejected the limitation period defense and broadened the number of liable defendants for the low quality of the construction work performed. Compensation was considered to be a "debt of value", so the total amount of damages was updated (adjusted for inflation), plus interest. Punitive damages were also awarded.

On December 14, 2016, Tribunal "A" of the Argentine Commercial Court of Appeals partially reversed and modified the Trial Court decision that had partially admitted the claim in "Álvarez José Antonio y otro c/ Blaisten S.A. y otros s/ Ordinario" (File No. 23,476/2012.)

According to the ruling, the plaintiffs (spouses) bought ceramics to remodel their home from Blaisten S.A., commissioning the work to Manos a la Obra S.R.L., an architecture firm recommended by Blaisten S.A. The architects provided the adhesives and carried out the work. After some time, several parts started to peel off and although they were replaced, that did not solve the problem. Hence, a lawsuit was filed against Blaisten S.A., Manos a la Obra S.R.L., Cerámicas San Lorenzo S.A (ceramic manufacturer) and Parex Klaukol S.A. (adhesives manufacturer).

Blaisten S.A. denied its liability, understanding that section 40 of Consumer Protection Law No. 24,240 ("CPL") was not applicable to the case. Blaisten stated there was no link to the defendants, that its only role had been to sell the ceramics, and that Blaisten S.A. could not be held liable for any manufacturing defects.

Both the ceramics and adhesive manufacturers challenged one of the plaintiffs' standing to sue, alleging that his role as a party to the works contract was not shown, nor was his ownership of the property where the contracted work was done. They also challenged the applicability of section 40 of CPL given the absence of "risk" or "defect" in their products, pointing at the "builder" as the sole party liable, as provided by sections 1646 and 1647 of the Civil Code.

On the other hand, Manos a la Obra S.R.L. also filed a motion to dismiss based on the statute of limitations and opposed plaintiffs' standing to sue based on sections 1646 and 1647 of the Civil Code. They also requested the rejection of the complaint invoking they had executed the work according to standard rules.  

The Trial...

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