According to the recently amended food sanitation act, consumers can seek compensation from the offending companies in line with Article 56, which stipulates that “in the event of difficulty for consumers to provide or inability to provide evidence to support the actual amount of damage, he/she may request the court to determine the compensation in the amount between NT$500 and NT$20,000 for each case of damage per person based on the circumstances of such damage.”
However, the Consumer Protection Committee, clearly taking the side of the companies, has ruled that the food sanitation law does not apply to any consumers who bought tainted products prior to June, when the law was enacted, as it cannot be applied retroactively.
Regardless, in law, when legislation is revised, the principles of following new provisions in procedural laws and old provisions in substantive laws apply. Article 56 of the food sanitation act concerns the mitigation of the burden of proof, and is procedural in nature.
The second clause of Article 222 of the Code of Civil Procedure (民事訴訟法), which predates the food sanitation act, deals with essentially the same issue, and states: “Where a party has proved injury, but is unable to or is under great difficulty to prove the exact amount, the court shall, taking into consideration all circumstances, determine the amount by its conviction.”
Therefore, based upon the principle of following new provisions in procedural laws, if consumers ingested tainted foodstuffs — irrespective of whether this occured prior to June or subsequent to it — they can, in court, invoke Article 56 of that law as grounds to seek compensation from the unscrupulous companies.
Huang Di-ying is a lawyer and a board member of the Taipei Bar Association’s Committee for Human Rights.
Translated by Paul Cooper