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Brussels, 21 April 2008

Electrical appliances: Market surveillance efforts by Member States' authorities result in improved safety for consumers

The European Commission has received the final reports on two projects aimed at enhancing the safety of two categories of consumer electrical products: portable household lights and cord extension sets. These cross-border market surveillance actions found a significant number of non-compliant products on which action was taken and concluded that more needs to be done to further safeguard the safety of European consumers. The first project picked lamps from the Community market already identified as potentially non-compliant and investigated the nature of their safety deficiencies. The second looked at cord extension sets and sought to determine the level of non-compliance in an area already identified as problematic. The results, together with the 2007 RAPEX report just presented by the Commission, show that market surveillance in the EU protects consumers, but also that more still needs to be done. The Commission continues to work with the Member States and industry to ensure that only safe appliances continue to reach the European citizen.

Vice President and Commissioner for Enterprise and Industry Günter Verheugen said "A lot has been done already to improve safety of products and therefore consumer's confidence in goods they purchase but there is still a room for improvement. The results of joint campaigns carried out by market surveillance authorities start to bear fruit and contribute to an even more effective EU wide mechanism to protect consumers."

Meglena Kuneva, EU Consumer Commissioner said, "Product safety is one of the key EU policies truly delivering results to consumers. I welcome the results of these projects. They show that investment in enhanced market surveillance is effective and I look forward to further boosting our co-operation with the Member States and industry to make sure no stone is left unturned when it comes to targeting unsafe products."

Mr Verheugen and Mrs Kuneva said they would call the industry in to discuss the results of these projects, the reasons for the problems and the possible remedies.

Joint projects

The two "joint actions" in the field of electrical appliances were carried out over the last two years by EU Member States' market surveillance authorities under the LVD ADCO (Low Voltage Directive Administrative Cooperation) group. One project focussed on lighting, while the second addressed cord extension sets. The latter received financial support from the European Commission. Further initiatives are planned for the coming years.

These initiatives are coordinated by the LVD ADCO group with the support of PROSAFE; the "Product Safety Enforcement Forum of Europe", which is a network of regulatory agencies and market surveillance authorities across Europe aimed at sharing best practices in product safety enforcement.

Portable household lights

The project looked at the compliance and safety aspects of portable lighting (i.e. lamps, which, in normal use, can be moved from one place to another whilst connected to the supply) falling within the scope of the relevant European standard (EN 60598, part 1, par. 1.2.9: portable luminaires, and EN 60598-2-4: portable general-purpose luminaires). In practice this encompasses standard lamps and desk lamps, including lighting with halogen lamps in as far as the bulb directly operates on the 230-240 V mains.

The main reason for focussing on lighting is the statistics of the LVD safeguard clauses and RAPEX notifications under the General Product Safety directive (GPSD), which show that lighting is the category of electrical appliances most frequently associated with risks of accidents or injuries (in 50% of the cases).

Only 5% (11 out of 226 samples) showed no shortcomings (either administrative or technical), with targeted sampling: inspectors specifically looked for non-compliant products when identifying the samples. Shortcomings ranged from the lack of CE marking to technical faults, from lack of earthing to failing electric strength tests, from defects in cord anchorage to failing thermal tests. Whilst not causing immediate danger to consumers, the shortcomings were considered serious enough to require remedies.

The project, which was launched in 2006, involved Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden. The group's final recommendations include: improving knowledge of the requirements, organising cross border actions on a regular basis, promoting smaller scale cross border co-operation between 2 to 5 authorities planning similar actions, improving information exchange and reducing differences in the classification of the level of non-conformity.

Cord extension sets

Cord extension sets were chosen as a subject for cross-border market surveillance action because they are widespread across European households, and safety shortcomings can be severe leading to damage of connected devices, for instance due to a lack of earthing wires. Countries involved in the project included Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Germany, Denmark, Spain, Finland, Iceland, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Malta, Poland, Sweden, Slovenia, Slovakia, and the UK.

In total, 210 cord extension sets were tested and the results show that only one in six cord extension sets fully complied with the LVD and GPSD requirements. Although the non-compliant samples also include those which exhibit only administrative failures, e.g. relating to faulty declarations of conformity or missing technical documentation, around 58% of the cord extension sets tested was considered sufficiently unsafe by the authorities to justify a sales ban.

Most frequently detected deficiencies included wrong shape and dimensions of plugs and sockets (50%), insufficient diameter of the cord (27%) and insufficient dielectric strength and resistance to ageing, temperature and fire (10%).Recommendations by the panel of experts include a review of existing standards, increased targeted market surveillance by Member State authorities as well as a review in the future to re-evaluate the level of non-compliance in the sector.

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