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Brussels, 5 May 2008

Questions and answers on the visit of Commissioner Kuneva to LEGO facilities

What is LEGO?

LEGO Group is a family-owned toy manufacturer based in Billund, Denmark and founded in 1932. The word "lego" is derived from the Danish "leg godt", or "play well".

Why is Commissioner Kuneva visiting LEGO?

Mrs Kuneva, the Commissioner in charge of Consumer Affairs, has been working with industry, in particular with the toy sector, both in Europe and across the world to ensure that the EU's toy safety requirements are fully understood and correctly implemented across the supply chain. She has underlined that due respect to consumer safety and protection contributes to consumer confidence and therefore also to the sector's competitiveness.

LEGO and other major toy producers, as members of the Toy Industries of Europe, are working particularly hard to ensure high product safety standards and are co-operating with the European Commission and other relevant authorities at EU and national level. Their ideas regarding future actions are regarded by the Commission as essential stakeholder input. The objective of the visit to Lego is to push forward co-operation and consultation of industry stakeholders in the process of the stocktaking and product safety chain evaluation launched by the Commission in September 2007. Different companies have participated in different ways in this process. Other toy manufacturers and importers, such as Hasbro, Mattel and Carrefour, for instance took part in a Commission-led trip in China where facilities were visited in the context of the evaluation of the safety measures in the toy supply chain.

What are industry's responsibilities in ensuring product safety?

Primary responsibility for product safety lies with economic operators: the manufacturer, the importer and the retailer. Anyone involved in making a product available on the EU market has a legal obligation to guarantee the safety of the product. The stocktaking exercise showed that reputable businesses make significant efforts to ensure that their products are safe, and have stringent procedures to check and verify the quality and safety of their goods. However, RAPEX notifications show that there are still major problems with the safety of products being put onto the EU market, especially at the lower end of the market. Further efforts are necessary to ensure that companies are complying in full with the requirement to guarantee the safety of goods destined for the EU consumer.

What are priorities for action in 2008 in this field?

Priority areas for action in 2008 include:

  • A comprehensive evaluation of business safety measures in the toy supply chain, with results in mid 2008.
  • Industry education and training on EU toy safety standards for Chinese partners and other players, as well as work to improve recall success rates.
  • A number of concrete measures to be agreed in 2008 involving manufacturers, retailers, importers, based on a voluntary agreement to rebuild consumer confidence.

What is the state of play of the evaluation of product safety performance in toy businesses?

The Commission is carrying out a project to evaluate the safety measures put in place by businesses in the toy supply chain. This evaluation includes the participation of the toy industry, consumer organisations, Member States, and standardisation and test institute experts. The project is currently ongoing and the aim is to present the final results by the end of May. Nevertheless, preliminary conclusions indicate that one of the main problems is smaller players in the supply chain, who are less well-equipped to deal with safety issues, due to a lack of dedicated personnel, weak quality management systems and poor supplier control.

Smaller importers too struggle with issues such as the classification of toys and age grading. It is clear that competitive pressure on international markets push companies to try to limit costs, but the Commission is working with both business and national authorities to ensure this is does not compromise the level of product safety in the EU. In the final report of the evaluation, recommendations will be made to address these problem areas.

What is the state of play of the voluntary agreement on toy safety?

The Commissioner has invited toy industry to sign up to a voluntary agreement to boost toy safety. This is intended to be implemented in two phases: the first step, which should be concluded by the end of May, will focus on the major toy manufacturers and is aimed at harnessing their expertise in the area of training and education. The second part, which is to follow in the second half of 2008, will address other important players, in particular importers and distributors.

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