November 16, 2022
Instructions for use are ubiquitous in our daily lives. From our simple toothbrush to that complex new drill, instruction manuals guide us in the handling and use of each of our products.
Yet, the actual experience leaves much to be desired. With sloppy translations, outdated information, and an aging format, we dug into the legal landscape to give marketing and product teams the keys to an incredible customer experience.
Here are the Top 5 legal frameworks to know about product manuals:
The instructions for use can take any form: paper or online.
The law specifies that the instructions must be on a durable medium, i.e. paper, but also a hard disk, an e-mail, or a dematerialized and reliable process giving permanent access to the instructions, such as a personal customer account on the brand's website.
According to the DGCCRF, "as dematerialization is widespread in commercial practice, it is permissible to allow the communication by electronic means of the instructions for use of a product, while reserving the possibility for the buyer to obtain from the seller, in the absence of Internet access, the delivery of the paper version of the instructions.”
This also applies to the entire European Union:
Blue Guide EU: "Unless otherwise specified in specific legislation, if safety-related information must be provided on paper, not all instructions need also be provided on paper, but may also be provided in electronic or other data storage format.”
However, the safety information should always be offered in printed form with the product.
While the format is free, this does not exempt the producer from creating an instruction manual.
In France 🇫🇷, the instructions for use are not only a matter of convenience and efficiency for the customer, it is also a legal obligation.
Article L.216-4 of the Code of the Consumption, "The delivery or the setting in service of the good is accompanied by the handing-over of the note of use and the instructions of installation as well as, if it is necessary, the contract of commercial guarantee.”
On a European scale 🇪🇺, there is no legal obligation to provide instructions for use. However, there are information obligations for sellers, which is why the instructions for use have emerged as the best tool to ensure compliance with the information obligation.
For example, the product manuals are nowadays the preferred medium to warn of the risks inherent to the purchased product (risk of choking, burning, ...), using pictograms and clear and concise indications.
If the instructions are mandatory, they must also always remain accessible through a link or a QR code for the digital format.
And this offers a lot of possibilities to revolutionize the paper instructions that we have known for so long. Indeed, the free format makes it possible to completely rethink the instruction manual by transforming it into a digital manual mixing text, images, animations and also videos, as Pimster proposes.
Moreover, once revolutionized, the instructions for use can be made available to everyone thanks to a QR code placed on the product or on the packaging. The QR code allows immediate access to the instruction manual at any time.
Pimster thus makes it possible to consult an interactive and dynamic instruction manual at any time, without you having to keep piles of paper, or without you having to realize that you have already thrown away the 150-page manual, when your washing machine has just broken down.
No more 100+ page manuals that are bland and lack interaction. Pimster offers dynamic and interactive manuals, complete with videos and practical tips.
In France, the French language is mandatory in the product manual.
Article 2 of the law n°94-665 of August 4, 1994 - Toubon law: "In the designation, the offer, the presentation, the instructions for use, the description of the extent and the conditions of guarantee of a good, a product or a service, as well as in the invoices and receipts, the use of the French language is mandatory.”
And it works the same way for European countries: the instructions must be translated into the language of the country where the product is sold.
Now that you know everything about the legal obligations of the user manual, we explain the content that is imposed by French law and jurisprudence on the seller:
1- Information on the use of the products (instructions for use) and their functionality.
2- Information on the safety of the products to warn the consumers.
3- Information on the identity and contact details of the producer and the product reference. In addition to the instructions for use, this information can also be given through the product or the packaging.
4- Pre-contractual information on the essential characteristics of the product. These are not necessarily present in the instructions for use, and can be found in other forms such as labels, posters or order forms, available before the purchase. They include information such as conditions of use, precautions for use, etc.
<aside>💡 The instructions for use therefore make it possible to meet the legal obligation of information and safety warnings incumbent on any seller towards consumers.
Finally, the more complex and/or dangerous the product sold is, the more the obligation to provide information is transformed into an obligation to advise, or even to warn.
In a word, you've never been so free to reinvent and simplify your consumers' experience. With Pimster, we help you create a new communication channel right from the start. Contact us to learn more.
Disclaimer: Please note that this summary does not address industry-specific regulations. Anyone should therefore make sure that there are no legal provisions applicable to their sector of activity relating to the instructions for use. Furthermore, this is only an interpretation of the texts and cannot replace an official interpretation or changes in regulations.