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Product safety guaranteed

The European Parliament is all out for ensuring that products placed on the market are safe for consumer use and that the market is carefully monitored for dangerous products. With the recent vote by Parliament, the revised EU rules on product safety and market surveillance proposed by the European Commission last year have moved a significant step forward towards seeing the light of day.

The new legislative package seeks to improve upon current EU rules regulating the safety of products placed on the market. It also steps up the market surveillance of all non-food products, including those imported from third countries. The basic principle remains at all times that all products must be safe when offered to the consumer.

One of the major overhauls relates to the traceability of dangerous products back to their manufacturers. Such traceability is particularly important for the recall of a product which has been identified as unsafe by the relevant authorities. Mandatory “made in” labelling for non-food products is set to replace the current voluntary system so that manufacturers and importers will be obliged to ensure that products bear an indication of the country of origin of the product. Such an indication of origin will supplement the current obligatory traceability requirements relating to the name and address of the manufacturer.

The proposed rules provide that where the size or nature of the product does not allow it, such an indication is to be provided on the packaging or in a document accompanying the product. For those products manufactured in the EU, manufacturers would be able to choose whether to insert “made in EU” on the label or actually name the country where the product was manufactured. For goods produced in more than one place, the country of origin would be that where it underwent the last substantial, economically justified processing resulting in a new product or representing an important stage of manufacture. The European Parliament has proposed that the “made in” labelling should apply to almost all goods sold within Europe, with a few exceptions such as medicines.

Distributors will be obliged to verify that the manufacturer or importer has duly labelled the product as required by law before they offer it for sale to the public

From their end, distributors will be obliged to verify that the manufacturer or importer has duly labelled the product as required by law before they offer it for sale to the public.

The European Parliament has insisted on tougher penalties for firms selling non-compliant or potentially dangerous products.

Such penalties will take into consideration the seriousness, the duration and the intentional or recurring character of the infringement as well as the size of the company.

It has also proposed that the European Commission should draw up a public EU-wide blacklist of firms which are repeatedly found to intentionally infringe EU product safety rules as well as a pan-European database on product related injuries suffered by consumers. The proposed rules also seek to enhance the current information-sharing and cooperation procedure among national authorities. The obligation to carry out market surveillance on an adequate scale will be reinforced and where the risks relating to a particular product so justifies, specific sampling and testing obligations must be adopted.

With the free flow of goods within the EU’s single market taking place on a daily basis, it is indispensable that there are in place effective and harmonised rules ensuring the safety of products placed on the market. Such rules work in favour of both consumers and industry. While boosting consumer confidence in the products being offered across Europe, harmonised EU laws guarantee traders a level playing field and the elimination of unfair competition from rogue traders.

mariosa@vellacardona.com

Mariosa Vella Cardona is a freelance legal consultant specialising in European law, competition law, consumer law and intellectual property law.

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