20 April 2018
Product Safety: Toys Are Among Other Consumer Goods Which Top the List of Dangerous Products Detected in the EU
On 12 March 2018, the European Commission released its 2017 Report on the Rapid Alert System (the RAPEX system) for dangerous products.
RAPEX is a system whereby European countries are able to alert other countries and the public of dangerous products found on their markets. The system records measures taken against unsafe, non-food, consumer and professional products which pose a serious risk to the health and safety of citizens and to the environment. The system has been in force since 2004 and was established by the General Product Safety Directive 2001/95/EC. RAPEX currently has 31 members, comprising the 28 EU Member States plus Iceland, Lichtenstein and Norway.
The system operates so that when a member country identifies a product as dangerous or as posing a risk to consumers, they must notify RAPEX and submit any relevant information on the product. Alerts submitted are validated and rapidly circulated to the participating countries who then check whether the relevant product is available on their national market and implement any necessary measures.
Once aware that a product is dangerous, there is an onus on producers, importers or distributors to immediately take the necessary action and cooperate with the national market surveillance authorities. The European Commission has developed a new IT tool – the “Product Safety Business Alert Gateway” - which can be used by companies to ensure compliance. This online tool replaces the old “GPSD Business Application”. The submission of notifications through the new Gateway can be made by the producers/distributors of the product to be notified, or their authorised representative. Submission of such notifications by third parties is not, however, permitted.
The most common measures in response to dangerous non-food products are a ban on sales; withdrawals from the market; recalls from consumers; and import rejection by the customs authorities.
In 2017, there were 2,201 notifications via RAPEX, a slight increase compared with 2016, when it was 2,044. Hong Kong sellers of all types of consumer goods may like to know that the three countries which submitted the most alerts were Germany (with 16% or 354 alerts), Spain (with 10% or 222 alerts), and France (with 9% or 191 alerts).
In total, there were 3,952 follow-up measures recorded which demonstrates that national authorities are engaging with the system, closely monitoring the alerts and taking all necessary measures to help make the market safer for consumers.
In 2017, toys were the most notified product category, which is line with the trend of previous years’ results. Motor vehicles were the second most notified product category, followed by clothing, textiles and fashion items. The fourth most notified product category was electrical appliances and equipment, with childcare articles and equipment constituting the fifth most notified product category.
The risk of injury was the highest notified risk in dangerous consumer products in 2017, accounting for 28% of the notifications. This was followed by chemical risk (22%), choking (17%), electric shock (10%) and fire (8%). Notably, there was no change in the top 5 risks from 2016.
The highest percent of dangerous consumer products notified in 2017 originated in China (including Hong Kong). These notifications accounted for 53% (1167) of alerts, the same as that registered in 2016. Bearing this in mind, the European Commission has an established, regular cooperation with the Chinese authorities on product safety issues. In particular, the RAPEX-China system allows for a systematic exchange of information on unsafe products with the Chinese authorities. This dialogue was reinforced when the EU Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, Věra Jourová, met with her Chinese counterparts to improve cooperation on product safety matters at the Trilateral Product Safety Summit in Beijing in 2017.
A further issue addressed in the Report is the growth of online markets. With the increase in online sales there is an increase in the risk of products reaching consumers without having been subjected to safety validation. On 1 March 2018, the European Commission issued a Recommendation which outlines a set of operational measures to be taken by companies and Member States to tackle illegal content online, including product safety.
Please click on the following link to read the RAPEX Report 2017.