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Toys top dangerous products list in 2017

62% of products flagged in Malta were toys, followed by childcare articles and children’s equipment

The Rapid Alert System strengthens protection from defective or dangerous products. The most 2017 alerts, 10, were issued for fidget spinners.

The Rapid Alert System strengthens protection from defective or dangerous products. The most 2017 alerts, 10, were issued for fidget spinners.

A variety of toys topped the list of dangerous products flagged by the Maltese consumer watchdog last year.

The concerns were that the items in question posed serious risks of strangulation, choking and chemical intoxication.

In all, 18 alerts were issued under an EU-wide mechanism, known as the Rapid Alert System, meant to strengthen consumer protection from defective or dangerous products.

Details on the action taken through this mechanism, known as Rapex for short, were given by the European Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, Věra Jourová, in Brussels yesterday.

At the EU level, toys, cars and motorcycles topped the list of dangerous products detected in 2017. The highest number of alerts, 10, was issued for fidget spinners. It was feared that certain elements, such as the button batteries on some models or the removable central covers, raised the possibility of parts being swallowed by users.

Last year, there were 2,201 alerts across the EU, a slight increase over 2016. They prompted the auth-orities to introduce 3,952 follow-up initiatives.

Almost one-third of the products flagged across EU Member States were toys (29 per cent), followed by motor vehicles (20 per cent). Clothes, textiles and fashion items ranked third, at 12 per cent, followed by electrical appliances and equipment (six per cent) and childcare articles (five per cent).

The three most common risks identified were injuries, accounting for almost a third of all cases (28 per cent), chemical intoxication (22 per cent) and choking (17 per cent), electric shock (10 per cent) and fire risks (six per cent).

A closer look at the data for each Member State reveals quite contrasting situations.

While Germany, France and Spain topped the list for the number of alerts issued – 354, 222 and 191 notifications, respectively, just seven were flagged in Luxembourg.

The 18 alerts in Malta gave rise to 24 follow-up initiatives by the consumer watchdog.

Unsafe products of European origin were the subject of 574 alerts

Nearly two-thirds of the products flagged in Malta (62 per cent) consisted of toys, including puffer balls from China and similar products of unknown origin.

The second most common products flagged in Malta were childcare articles and children’s equipment (21 per cent).

Clothing, textiles and fashion equipment ranked third at 13 per cent.

In most cases, the alert was issued as a result of risks of strangulation (54 per cent), and a quarter were the result of fears of choking (25 per cent). Chemical intoxication accounted for about one in every seven cases (14 per cent).

Most of the unsafe products listed came from outside the EU. China (including Hong Kong) was the country of origin in the case of 53 per cent (1,167) of the alerts, the same percentage as the previous year.

Unsafe products of European origin were the subject of 574 alerts (26 per cent), up from 23 per cent in 2016.

Rapex officials pointed out that the alerts issued were not directly linked to the level of safety of the products in the respective EU countries. There could be many reasons why some countries flagged more alerts than others, such as the size of the market itself, the volume of imports and the level of experience of the product ins-pectors, they remarked.

Ms Jourová noted that, thanks to the system, the EU was keeping children safe and preventing fatal accidents on the roads.

“This is a good example of how to efficiently enforce EU consumer rules,” she said.

“Unfortunately, in many other areas we need to improve enforcement and make sure consumers can benefit from their rights. This is what our upcoming ‘new deal for consumers’ is all about.”

The latter is part of an effort from Brussels to update existing rules and further improve consumer protection.

Set up in 2003, the Rapex system enables national authorities to quickly exchange information about dangerous products, thus allowing other EU Member States to screen the market and take appropriate action should the same product be found.

Meanwhile, the European Commission is stepping up its efforts to improve the safety standards of products purchased over the internet.

Two weeks ago, it issued a re-commendation consisting of operational measures to be taken by online platforms and Member States to further step up their work on illegal online content, including dangerous consumer products.

In particular, the Commission is calling on platforms to make voluntary commitments that go further than their legal obligations in terms of product safety.

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