COVID-19 – Substandard Quality of Masks and Other Protective Equipment

Michael RainerManaging Partner, MTR Rechtsanwälte

The coronavirus pandemic is not over. Respiratory masks and other protective gear remain vital. However, the issues of quality and outstanding invoices are also increasingly taking center stage.

The global number of coronavirus infections continues to increase, with the number of people infected with COVID-19 rising once again in Germany. The Robert Koch Institute cites people’s failure to continue to sufficiently abide by social distancing and hygiene measures as the principal cause. Those returning from vacation were said to be only a minor contributor to this trend.

With the increase in the number of coronavirus infections, the issue of protective equipment in healthcare, the workplace, and in private settings is gaining prominence once more. This also includes – in addition to the classic masks that cover the mouth and nose – for example, protective gowns, protective goggles, and disposable gloves.

When the crisis surrounding the coronavirus first took root in Germany, protective equipment was in short supply due to high demand. Even disreputable providers who were bringing the classic masks and other protective gear of poor quality to market have been prompted to take action in response to the supply bottlenecks.

The has led to retailers increasingly experiencing difficulties in the form of their customers bringing claims for damages against them due to the poor quality of the goods. The retailers themselves may be able to assert claims for damages against their suppliers. We at the commercial law firm MTR Rechstanwälte note that in order for this to happen, the contracts need to be carefully reviewed and the details clarified for whether the goods satisfy the level of quality that was agreed.

It is generally important to ensure that masks as well as any other protective gear come with the necessary certificates. Respiratory masks usually have to comply with European Regulation 2016/425/EU on personal protective equipment (PPE). The coronavirus crisis has seen protective equipment deemed acceptable despite a lack of appropriate documentation if it meets the standards of protection in the U.S., Canada, Australia, or Japan. At the same time, protective equipment has increasingly been introduced onto the market with forged certificates. The certificates should therefore be reviewed with a view to establishing whether they are authentic and plausible.

If respiratory masks and other protective gear are duly delivered and free from defects, then the distributors are naturally entitled to have their invoices paid. There have recently been reports of payment delays. Given the often considerable sums of money at stake, distributors ought to take prompt action in asserting their rights.

Lawyers with experience in the field of commercial law can offer advice.