New Product Safety Rules

The Commission has presented a new package of proposed measures aimed at creating a level playing field for businesses and better protecting consumers by taking unsafe products off the market more quickly.

The new legislation would update safety rules, strengthen market surveillance, and better coordinate market surveillance activities in the EU, says the Commission

The Package


The Package consists of:
• A proposal for a new Regulation on Consumer Products Safety
• A proposal for a Regulation on Market Surveillance for Products
• A Communication on Safer and compliant products for Europe, setting out a multi-annual plan for market surveillance and
• A Report on the implementation of Regulation (EC) No 765/2008
 
The current General Product Safety Directive requires that consumer products be safe, imposes obligations on Member States and national market surveillance authorities and lays down procedures for the exchange of information.

EU rules on market surveillance would now be included in a single instrument, the proposed single Regulation on Market Surveillance. In addition, the new Consumer Product Safety Regulation would aim to further strengthen EU rules on product identification and traceability and simplify the rules on EU standardisation.

Consumer Product Safety

The new Regulation would apply to manufactured consumer products. It would not apply to the following:
• Medicinal products for human or veterinary use
• Food
• Materials and articles intended to come into contact with food
• Feed
•   Living plants and animals, genetically modified organisms and genetically modified microorganisms in contained use
• (animal by-products and derived products
• Plant protection products
• Equipment on which consumers ride or travel which is operated by a service provider within the context of a service provided to consumers 
• Antiques

Obligations

Manufacturers would be required to ensure that products are safe and would have to provide public authorities with a technical document. This would include information such as a general description of the product, the possible risks it may present and the solutions adopted to address those risks. Where applicable, a list of European standards, with which the product complies, should also be provided.

Both manufacturers and importers must indicate their name, registered trade name or registered trade mark and the address at which they can be contacted on the product or, where that is not possible, on its packaging or in a document accompanying the product.

Origin and Traceability

Under the proposed rules, manufacturers and importers are required to ensure that products bear an indication of the country of origin of the product or, where the size or nature of the product does not allow it, that indication must be provided on the packaging or in a document accompanying the product.

According to the Commission, this requirement will make it easier to trace dangerous products back to the source. Cooperation with the market surveillance authorities of the country of origin can help stop dangerous products from reaching the market in the first place.
The proposal also provides that for certain categories of products which, due to their specific characteristics, may pose serious risk to health and safety of persons, the Commission may require economic operators to set up a system of traceability. This system would involve the collection and storage of data by electronic means that would enable the identification of the product and of the economic operators involved in its supply chain.

EU Standardisation

According to the proposal, the Commission may request one or several European standardisation organisations to draft or identify a European standard. This aims at ensuring that products that conform to such a standard comply with the general safety requirement set in the proposed Regulation. The European standardisation organisation has one month from the date of the receipt of this request to indicate whether it accepts it.

Market Surveillance

Obligations

According to the proposed Regulation, Member States would be obliged to establish or designate market surveillance authorities, which must carry out checks on the characteristics of products on an adequate scale and with adequate frequency, by using a document or, where this is necessary, by taking an adequate sample.

In case where market surveillance authorities, while performing a check, have sufficient reason to believe that a product that is placed on the market may present a risk, they must then carry out a risk assessment. In cases where the risk assessment shows that a product presents a serious risk to public health, the proposal requires the Commission to prohibit, suspend, restrict the placing on the market or lay down specific conditions concerning its marketing.

Notifications

Under current rules, Member States are required to notify the Commission and other Member States of any market surveillance action taken at national level for products presenting a risk under two separate procedures. The proposal would enable Member States to notify both the Commission and the other Member States of action under a single procedure.

According to the proposed rules, the RAPEX (the EU rapid alert system) contact point set up in each Member State will have to inform the Commission of any actions taken by market surveillance authorities and economic operators with regard to products presenting a risk. On receiving a notification, the Commission would then communicate it to the other Member States.

Cooperation

The proposed Regulation would require market surveillance authorities of Member States to cooperate and exchange information regarding market surveillance programmes, and all issues relating to products presenting a risk. Market surveillance authorities should also cooperate with the competent authorities of third countries with a view to exchanging information and technical support with regard to conformity assessment and market surveillance activities.
The proposed Regulation would also set up a European Market Surveillance Forum (EMSF), which would, among others, aim to: 
• Facilitate the exchange of information on products presenting a risk
• Coordinate the preparation and implementation of the general and sector specific market surveillance programmes 
• Organise joint market surveillance and joint testing projects. Each Member State shall be represented in meetings of the EMSF

Multi-Annual Action Plan

The Commission has also presented a multi-annual action plan for the surveillance of EU products. The action plan outlines 20 non-legislative key actions that the Commission intends to take by 2015, with the aim of reducing the number of unsafe or non-compliant products and ensure the efficiency and effectiveness of the surveillance of products both within the Union and on entry into the Union.

Key Actions

Key actions envisaged by the Commission include:
• Promoting the use by market surveillance authorities of results of tests already performed in one Member State with the aim of verifying whether a product poses a risk, by other Member States
• Ensuring that the Information and Communication System for Market Surveillance (ICSMS) will be developed further to collect, store and exchange information and best practices among all the actors directly concerned
• Ensuring synergies between RAPEX and ICSMS 
• Examining the feasibility of a public Consumer Product Safety Information Database, which could include a platform for complaints and injuries 
• Completing and updating the general risk assessment methodology available in the RAPEX Guidelines so that they cover the other risks 
• Collecting data from the Member States on the results of border controls from 2013 and publishing an annual report from 2015 
• Starting an in-depth inquiry into the safety aspects of professional non-harmonised products, namely products that are not subject to European rules on safety or other essential requirements 
• Developing a common risk approach to customs product safety and compliance controls

Report on Implementation

Regulation (EC) No 765/2008 sets out rules on market surveillance and introduces for the first time a legal framework for accreditation. Its purpose is to strengthen accreditation as the last level of control in the conformity assessment system.

Key Findings

Key findings of the Report on the implementation of the Regulation are the following: 
• All Member States have set up a national accreditation body
• The use of accreditation for notification purposes of products presenting a risk to health, safety or environment differs across Member States and across sectors: while some Member States have made accreditation for notification purposes compulsory, this is not the case in others
• Most of them have reformulated their administrative structures, in line with the market surveillance rules of the Regulation 
• In 2012, the Commission validated 37 new notifications, 31 of which presented a serious risk

Next Steps

The proposed Regulations will now be sent to the European Parliament and the Council for examination, following the ordinary legislative procedure.

The multi-annual action plan for the surveillance of EU products and the Implementation Report of Regulation (EC) No 765/2008 will also be sent to both institutions for examination. The institutions may formally respond to them in the coming months.