19 May 2017
Toys Continue to Be Most Notified Among Dangerous Consumer Products
On 16 March 2017, The European Commission published the results of the EU’s Rapid Alert System (the RAPEX system) for dangerous consumer products in 2016. The results illustrate that over 2000 dangerous consumer products triggered EU-wide notifications during 2016. Dangerous products in terms of the RAPEX system are those which pose a serious risk to the health and safety of consumers, including risks leading to physical injury and risks from chemicals.
Hong Kong manufacturers that export their products to the EU should be aware that toys, clothing, textiles and fashion items, electrical appliances and childcare articles were among those that received the highest number of notifications during 2016.
RAPEX is a system where European countries are able to alert other countries and the public of dangerous non-food products found on their markets. The system itself was established by the General Product Safety Directive 2001/95/EC and has been in force since 2004. RAPEX currently has 31 members, comprising the EU Member States as well as Iceland, Lichtenstein and Norway.
When a member country identifies a non-food product on its territory as dangerous or as posing a risk to consumers, they must notify RAPEX and submit any relevant information on the product. Other members can then check whether the same product is available on their national market and implement any necessary measures to ensure that the dangerous product is withdrawn or recalled from the market. This enables RAPEX to have an EU-wide effect and increases the speed of notification between countries.
Products identified as dangerous under RAPEX are posted on the Commission’s website on a weekly basis, and are updated as further information becomes available.
When a producer, importer, distributor or economic operator becomes aware that their product has been identified as dangerous, they must immediately take necessary remedial action and cooperate with the national market surveillance authorities. 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 2016, there were 2044 notifications which triggered an alert as posing a risk to consumer health and safety. In total, there were 3,824 follow-up actions responding to the products that were identified as dangerous. This data reveals that the number of reactions equates to almost double the number of notifications on dangerous products. The result demonstrates that national consumer authorities in different member countries appear to be increasingly following up on notifications as to dangerous products circulated in the system. The results further illustrate that increased measures are being taken around Europe in order to stop such dangerous products.
Interestingly, the results reveal that 244 of the notifications concerned products that had been sold online, i.e., via e-commerce.
Drilling down into the figures, in 2016, in line with the previous year’s result, toys were the most notified product category (26%). This was followed by Motor vehicles (18%) which have grown in importance when compared to clothing (13%), which tended to be more prominent in past results. There was a slight reduction in the number of electrical appliances and equipment notified in 2016 (7%) when compared to 2015 (9%), however it was still the fourth most notified product category followed by childcare articles and children’s equipment (5%).
Accounting for 25% of the notifications, the most notified risk was “Injuries” and these concerned products from the motor vehicles product categories. Hong Kong exporters should additionally note that chemical risk, which was the most notified risk in the previous year, i.e., 2015, had the second highest detected risk in 2016, accounting for 23% of the notifications.
These risks were followed by the risk of choking (14%), electric shock (11%) and fire (9%). Other risks, including strangulation and burns, were amongst 11 other recorded risks in 2016.
The majority of dangerous products notified in the system came from outside the EU. Hong Kong traders may be interested to know that China (including Hong Kong) was indicated as a country of origin for 53% (1,069) of notified products; a positive sign for traders is that this figure is down from 62% in 2015. There were 10 (unspecified) notifications relating to dangerous non-food products originating in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong traders may be additionally interested to know that the report discusses the RAPEX-China collaboration, which was established in 2006 in order to allow for the swift flagging of notifications concerning unsafe products from China. These notifications are investigated by the Chinese authorities and the results and follow up actions undertaken in China are ultimately reported to the European Commission.
The information provided by the Chinese authorities illustrates that in the cases reported to them in 2013, measures could be taken within 44% of the notifications that were traceable. Further, in 2014, this amounted to 36% and in 2015 to 37%. The report notes that over the years, the notified categories originating in China have remained stable, and principally concern clothing articles and toys.
In June 2016, the EU Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, Věra Jourová, met with her Chinese and US counterparts at the Trilateral Product Safety Summit in Beijing to reinforce cooperation with the Chinese authorities on product safety, with particular emphasis on the safety of products sold online.
In the RAPEX report for 2016, Commissioner Jourová identifies the safety of products sold online as “a key issue for the coming years”. Accordingly, the European Commission is preparing a set of guidelines in order to assist national authorities and businesses with the challenges posed by e-commerce and its implications for consumer safety. In parallel, the European Commission has been working with online platforms regarding cooperation in detecting dangerous products.
Please click on the following link to read the RAPEX Report for 2016.