General Product Safety Report

This Report reviews the implementation of the General Product Safety Directive (2001/95/EC) by Member States, and the success of the Rapid Alert System for non-food Consumer Products. 

Background

The General Product Safety Directive was adopted on 3 December 2001 and entered into force on 15 January 2002. The deadline for its transposition by the Member States was 15 January 2004. It replaced an earlier General Product Safety Directive dating from 1992.

The Directive covers the safety of consumer products, traceability of products, functioning of market surveillance and the rapid alert system (RAPEX), standardisation, bans on certain product components and certain safety issues relating to services that fall within the scope of this Directive.

Aim of the Report

This Report aims to provide an accurate review of how successfully the 2001 General Product Safety Directive (2001/95/EC) has been implemented. It assesses:

•  Member State Implementation

•  The Rapid Alert System for non-food Consumer Products (RAPEX)

Member State Implementation

The Report noted that implementation of the Directive has not been uniform throughout the EU. While the Commission considers that the Directive has been adequately transposed, it also makes clear there have been inconsistencies. As a result, the Commission is in the process of discussing certain aspects of the Directive’s implementation with the Member States and investigating whether additional measures or infringement procedures are necessary.

Safety Assessment

Amongst the differences observed between Member States, aspects of safety assessment were particularly noticeable. It was reported that some Member States had not transposed all the safety assessment criteria required by the Directive, while others had modified the criteria or developed their own.

Traceability

Differences in requirements for traceability between Member States were also noted. While some Member States have made it obligatory for products to indicate the identity and details of the producer (or importer) on the product or on its packaging, others have made the traceability measures outlined in the Directive optional. As a consequence, the obligations that producers have can differ from country to country.

Notification by Producers

Notification of producers was another area where discrepancies in implementation were noted. In some Member States, producers are only required to notify in the case of a known risk, whereas the Directive requires producers to notify when the producer ‘ought to know’ risks based on the available information.

Community Measures to Enforce Product Safety (Article 13)

Article 13 of the Directive allows the Commission to implement EU measures to enforce product safety requirements. This article has been invoked three times and Member States are obliged to lay down provisions to comply with measures that the Commission implements. The Directive however contains no specific provisions explicitly permitting a permanent ban on non-harmonised products once they have unambiguously proven to be dangerous. It is suggested that the temporary measures that can be implemented under Article 13 be amended so that they can include permanent bans.

The Rapid Alert System for non-food Consumer Products (RAPEX)

The Commission believes that the Rapid Alert System for non-food Consumer Products (RAPEX) has proven to be satisfactory, despite the strain that the system has been put under due to an increase in the number of notifications. The Report notes that the increase in notifications indicates that consumer protection has increased in Europe and that responsible businesses take product safety seriously and respect the obligations placed on them by the Directive.

The most common risks observed have been injury, choking and electric shock, followed by burns, fire, suffocation and chemical risks. Long-term risks, such as those arising from exposure to certain chemicals, are more difficult to detect and assess, says the Commission, because the hazardous effects are not immediately evident.

The Commission also says that the increase in reported measures adopted by businesses to contain risks shows that the private sector is taking the issue of product safety seriously and respecting the obligations of the Directive.

Further Recommendations

The Report suggests that laws on product safety should be further standardised. Suggested methods of streamlining the procedure for issuing safety requirements for individual products include issuing ‘framework’ or ‘standing’ mandates to European Standardisation Organisations (ESOs) on the basis of the specified safety requirements of specific categories of products.

The Commission also proposes to issue the reference of a standard adopted by an ESO without a corresponding mandate, if the product covered by the standard and the standard itself falls within EU safety requirements. This would create a presumption of conformity and encourage business compliance.

The Report also suggests that action is required, at European level, to address general risks and accidents, such as fire safety in hotels. There is also a need to improve the existing European system for monitoring accidents and injuries, including those related to services.