Online sales have increased steadily in the last 20 years. According to EU figures, in 2020, 71% of consumers shopped online, often buying new technology products such as wireless headphones or gaming consoles.
Product safety rules have not kept up with these developments. The European Commission has therefore proposed revisions of the General Product Safety Directive with the aim of enhancing consumer rights in a world reshaped by digitalisation and the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, it wants to ensure that dangerous products are recalled from the market. The proposal is part of the New Consumer Agenda, launched in November 2020, aiming to update the overall strategic framework of the EU consumer policy.
The General Product Safety Directive has been in force since 2001 and requires all products sold on the EU single market to be safe. However, according to the Commission, too many unsafe products still circulate on the EU market, creating an uneven playing field for businesses and a significant cost for society and consumers. In addition, it says that the rules need to be updated to address challenges linked to new technologies and online sales.
Consequently, the revised General Product Safety Regulation aims to address risks related to new technology products, such as cybersecurity risks, and to online shopping by, introducing product safety rules for online marketplaces. It also aims to ensure that all products reaching EU consumers, through online marketplaces or from the corner shop, are safe, whether coming from within the EU or from outside. Finally, the new Regulation aims to make certain that marketplaces fulfil their duties so that consumers do not end up with dangerous products in their hands.
The Commission's proposals will now be discussed by Council and Parliament.
The COVID-19 crisis has impacted consumers in multiple ways and many have faced financial difficulties. The digitalisation that has been accelerated by the pandemic, leads to a surge of online shopping and is profoundly changing the financial sector. It is our duty to safeguard consumers, in particular, the most vulnerable ones