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Brussels, 15 January 2004

Safety first new laws for product recalls

EU-wide rules applicable from today are designed to improve the safety of consumer products. The revised General Product Safety Directive (GSPD - 2001/95/EC), adopted in 2001 and entering into force today concerns safety controls of all consumer products (except food). It sets safety requirements for consumer products such as sports- and playground equipment, child care articles, lighters and most household products such as textiles and furniture. The Commission receives around 150 notifications of dangerous products annually, most often associated to risks of choking and suffocation, electric shocks and fires. The category of products more often notified is toys, followed by electric appliances and products. David Byrne, EU Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, said: "For the first time manufacturers have the legal obligation to inform authorities if a product is unsafe. These are recalled and taken of the market. Also for the first time the Commission can even now initiate recalls and provisional bans to assure the same level of protection for the entire EU. This is very good news for consumers."

The new rules are:

  • Manufacturers and distributors will now be legally obliged to inform the authorities if they conclude a product they supply is dangerous. They will then have to work with the authorities in tracing dangerous products and taking them off the market. If necessary, companies can be required to organise a product recall.

  • If and when dangerous products are identified, the EU's powers to order a recall or an emergency ban have been simplified and reinforced. Where a "serious risk requiring rapid action" is identified, the Commission can now impose an emergency ban lasting up to one year the limit for such bans under the old GPSD was three months. The Commission can also for the first time act on its own initiative to suspend a product up to now it could only initiate EU action after a Member States request.

  • Under the new GPSD products subject to an emergency ban can no longer be exported from the EU to third countries.

  • The new GPSD requires that, as a general rule, information gathered by Member States and the Commission on product safety should be made available to the public. Exceptions are made, however, to prevent the disclosure of information that would undermine the authorities' market surveillance activities or violate commercial confidentiality rules.

  • Enforcement of product safety rules will become more effective, with better cooperation between national authorities, enhanced emergency powers and clearer definitions of how the rules apply. The EU rapid alert system for dangerous products (RAPEX) is strengthened.

  • The Commission is to be informed immediately of any product that poses a serious risk and will alert all Member States, while the possibility of linking third countries to the RAPEX system is also foreseen: Romania and Bulgaria have already expressed an interest in joining.


    Clarifying the rules

The EU's rules on product safety are a mixture of laws applying to specific products or sectors and general laws applying to all products. The revised GPSD clarifies the relationship between its general rules on product safety and product or sector specific laws. Detailed guidance on how the GPSD relates to the Toys Directive, the Directive on Equipment with Voltage Limits, the Directive on Personal Protective Equipment and the Cosmetics Directive is available at: The revised GPSD further clarifies that products that "migrate" from professional to consumer use for example, power tools primarily intended for builders that become available for sale or rent to consumers in DIY shops are covered by its rules, as are products supplied to or used by consumers as part of a service.

    More effective use of standards

Compliance costs for businesses should fall as the revised GPSD makes more effective use of standards from bodies such as CEN and CENELEC. Products complying with certain Europe-wide standards will be deemed to meet safety requirements in all Member States.

An initial list of these standards will be published later this year. It is likely to include standards relating to childcare products such as cradles, cots and baby-soothers.

    European Product Safety Network

The Directive establishes a European Product Safety Network, enabling national consumer protection authorities to pool expertise and share information. The Commission hosted several preparatory meetings of this Network, the last on 19 December 2003, in anticipation of the new GPSD coming into force. Work is underway on establishing a list of potentially dangerous products of EU-wide concern, with a view to Member States dividing up the work of monitoring and testing them. This should mean more products being scrutinised more quickly at little or no extra cost to tax payers around Europe.

Further information

For more information about the revised General Product Safety Directive see:

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