EU responds to product safety concerns with proposed regulation

Out-Law News | 28 Feb 2019 | 8:57 am | 1 min. read

The EU is introducing a new regulation  to increase the enforcement of product safety standards  for products sold in the single market.

The aim of the proposed regulation is to strengthen market surveillance, providing clear, transparent and comprehensive rules to economic operators, intensifying compliance controls and promoting closer cross-border cooperation among enforcement authorities, including through cooperation with customs authorities. 

The initiative was prompted by concerns over the number of unsafe and non-compliant goods on the EU market. Joint inspections by authorities have found 32% of toys and 58% of electronic devices do not meet safety or consumer information requirements.

A European surveillance exercise found a fifth of toy samples were non-compliant with regulations which restrict the content of substances of concern.

Last week the Council of the EU endorsed a provisional deal reached between the Romanian presidency of the Council and the European parliament for a regulation (147 page / 869KB PDF) aimed at enhancing the enforcement of EU rules for non-compliant productsand increasing the confidence of consumers in products sold in the EU.

The rules will also require member states to ensure they carry out proper market checks of products sold online to protect consumer safety and health. The strengthened enforcement measures will in some cases require there to be a company with responsibility for those products based in the EU.

The agreed text will now be submitted to the European parliament and Council for formal adoption, a process which is unlikely to be completed before the UK leaves the EU on 29 March.

However, the regulation will impact on UK manufacturers which wish to import and sell products in the EU. While the UK is a member of the EU the presence of a manufacturer or importer in the UK would meet the EU requirement for an economic operator in the EU.

Product safety expert Jacqueline Harris of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said: "After Brexit that will not be the case and UK importers or manufactures will need an authorised representative or service provider able to take responsibility for the compliance requirements based in the EU. Achieving a single legislative framework of controls on products at the EU external borders might increase the scrutiny and regulation the UK producer will need to satisfy as it seeks to cross that border into the EU."

The UK government laid a draft statutory instrument focusing on product safety before the UK parliament in December 2018. The statutory instrument will amend EU product laws and domestic laws derived from EU laws that will be retained in domestic legislation after Brexit.  

Meanwhile last year the UK created the Office for Product Safety and Standards, which is responsible for product safety for non-food goods, such as 'white' goods, electrical items, toys, clothes and cosmetics.