On Thursday, MEPs endorsed the revised rules on product safety of non-food consumer products with 569 votes in favour, 13 against and no abstentions. The new regulation aligns the existing General Product Safety Directive with the latest developments in digitalisation and the surge in online shopping.
Improving safety assessments
In order to guarantee that all products placed on the market are safe for consumers, the General Product Safety Regulation includes measures to guarantee that risks for the most vulnerable consumers (e.g. children), gender aspects and cybersecurity risks are also taken into account during safety assessments.
Market surveillance and online shops
The new regulation extends the obligations of economic operators (such as the manufacturer, importer, distributor), increases the powers of market surveillance authorities and introduces clear obligations for providers of online marketplaces. Online market places shall cooperate with market surveillance authorities to mitigate risks, who in turn can order online marketplaces to remove or disable access to offers of dangerous products without undue delay, and in any event within two working days.
Products coming from outside the EU can be placed on the market only if there is an economic operator established in the European Union, who is responsible for its safety.
Efficient recall procedures
The revamped legislation improves the product recall procedure, as currently return rates remain low, with an estimated third of EU consumers continuing to use recalled products.
If a product has to be recalled, consumers must be informed directly and offered a repair, replacement or refund. Consumers will also have the right to file complaints or launch collective actions. Information on products’ safety and remedy options must be available in clear and easily understandable language. The rapid alert system for dangerous products (“Safety Gate” portal) will be modernised to allow unsafe products to be detected more effectively and will be more accessible for persons with disabilities.
The rapporteur Dita Charanzová (Renew, CZ) said: “Thanks to this law we are protecting our most vulnerable consumers, particularly children. In 2020, 50% of products listed as dangerous came from China. With this law, we took a crucial step against those who do not sell safe products in Europe.
Every product sold must have someone who takes responsibility for it inside the EU. Unsafe products will be removed from websites in two days. Consumers will be informed directly via email if they have bought an unsafe product. In addition, they will have a right to a repair, replacement or refund if a product is recalled. Once this law is in place, there will be fewer dangerous products in Europe”.
Council will need to formally endorse the text too, before its publication in the EU Official Journal and entry into force. The Regulation will apply 18 months after its entry into force.
In 2021, 73% consumers bought products online (compared to 50% in 2014) and in 2020, 21% ordered something from outside the EU (8% in 2014). According to Safety Gate’s 2020 annual report, 26% of notifications of dangerous products concerned products sold online, while at least 62% concerned products coming from outside the EU and EEA.
The new rules are projected to save EU consumers around 1 billion euro in the first year and approximately 5.5 billion over the next decade. By reducing the number of unsafe products on the market, the new measures should reduce the harm caused to EU consumers due to preventable, product-related accidents (estimated today at 11.5 billion euro per year) and the cost of healthcare (estimated at 6.7 billion euro per year).
New rules on product safety bought online and offline for greater consumer safety