Rules to ensure better checks and safety of goods sold in the EU were provisionally agreed by EU lawmakers on Thursday.
The market surveillance proposal, included in the “Goods package”, aims to strengthen checks made by national authorities and customs officers to prevent unsafe products from being sold to EU consumers. These measures should also prevent rogue traders from gaining an unfair competitive advantage over companies that respect the rules.
There are over 500 different authorities responsible for market surveillance in the EU member states. The new rules provide for them to cooperate and coordinate better, based on increased peer evaluations among member states and exchange of information on faulty products and ongoing investigations, stricter rules on mutual assistance and through the creation of an EU Product Compliance Network.
EU lawmakers strengthened market surveillance across the EU, including of products sold online, and national authorities’ powers to investigate and enforce the rules.
Keeping a closer eye on online sales
The growth of e-commerce and emerging technologies pose new challenges and threats. The new rules require EU member states to ensure proper market surveillance of products sold online to protect consumer health and safety. EU countries should make sure that online market surveillance is performed at the same level of effectiveness as for traditional supply channels.
For certain types of products sold on the single market, companies, including those from non-EU countries, will have to designate a person in the EU who can be contacted directly about compliance issues and must ensure that any case of non-compliance is remedied.
Nicola Danti (S&D, IT), Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee rapporteur, said, “With the agreement, we secured a more effective and modern European system of checks on all products circulating in the EU, more cooperation among national authorities and increased power of investigation at their disposal to detect unsafe goods in the market. There will be also stricter rules for products sold online, in order to make the e-commerce sector safer for consumers”.
“Recent scandals, such as ‘Dieselgate’, as well as substantial data clearly show that the circulation of unsafe and non-compliant products is still a reality in the EU: with this regulation approved, we will have a safer Single Market and fewer risks for consumers”, he added.
The provisional agreement still needs to be confirmed by member states’ ambassadors (Coreper) and by the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee. The regulation will then be put to a vote by the full House and submitted for approval to the EU Council of Ministers.
The other legislative proposal of the “Goods package”, on mutual recognition, was agreed by the co-legislators in November and will be voted on by Parliament in February’s plenary session.
Unsafe and non-compliant products are still circulating on the EU market. Joint inspections by market surveillance authorities have shown that 32% of toys inspected, 58% of electronic devices, 47% of construction products and 40% of personal protective equipment did not meet the safety or consumer information requirements (e.g. labelling or placing of warnings) laid down in EU laws.