Only yesterday we covered the new UK Digital Markets, Consumer and Competition Bill, including its implications for consumer protection. Today, we cover the EU Council's approval of the new EU General Product Safety Regulation. Although it is EU legislation, it will affect businesses in the UK, so do read on! It is one of the biggest changes to product safety regulation for many years.
The 2001 Directive on general product safety required consumer products placed or made available on the EU market to comply with general safety requirements. However, the increasing number of goods and products sold online has necessitated an update to keep the rules fit for purpose. The Directive also led to differing interpretations across member states, whereas the new Regulation (being directly effective) will facilitate a consistent EU-wide approach.
The Regulation aims to reinforce product safety and consumer protection, and makes it easier for consumers to repair, return or replace unsafe products. Key points:
- a single market surveillance regime will apply to all products;
- online marketplaces will have to co-operate with market surveillance authorities if they detect a dangerous product on their platform, and must establish a single point of contact in charge of product safety
- market surveillance authorities will be able to require online marketplaces to remove dangerous products from their platforms or to disable access
- if a product is proven to be unsafe, economic operators must immediately adopt corrective measures and inform market surveillance authorities and consumers
- if a product must be recalled, consumers will be entitled either to have it repaired or replaced or to be refunded (and can choose between at least two of these options)
- economic operators must have a person responsible for products sold online and offline (independently of the product’s origin), who will ensure the availability of technical documentation, instructions and safety information. This also applies to economic operators located outside the EU, so UK businesses will need to designate a responsible person.
The regulation will be published in the EU Official Journal and come into force on the 20th day after its publication. Although there will be an 18 month transition period once the Regulation comes into force, development and manufacturing timelines can be quite lengthy, so businesses should plan ahead.
We are still waiting for the outcome of the UK's review of product safety standards - it will be interesting to see if it is similar to the EU approach, or as with the AI regulation, the UK take a different approach. The Business Minister has said that publication of the government’s Product Safety Review is "imminent" and will include policy proposals relating to online marketplaces.
With the adopted regulation, we are making sure that consumers enjoy the highest level of product safety, whether they shop online or physically. If we are serious in our digital transformation, we need to make sure that citizens feel confident about the safety of what they purchase independently of how they purchase it.