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Avoiding counterfeit toys at Christmas: give the gift of safety

European Commission - MEMO/13/1188   20/12/2013

Other available languages: IT

European Commission

MEMO

Brussels, 20 December 2013

Avoiding counterfeit toys at Christmas: give the gift of safety

This Christmas, make sure you are not fooled into buying counterfeit and potentially dangerous toys. Designed to defraud and deceive, counterfeit products such as fake toys pose a threat both to European citizens and the European economy. Counterfeits’ inferior quality raises significant health and safety concerns, and their fraudulent business model puts thousands of jobs in jeopardy. To highlight the dangers of counterfeit goods, today in a toy shop in Rome, Vice President Antonio Tajani, European Commissioner for Enterprise and Industry will present the EU Stop Fakes campaign.

EU rules for toys impose the highest safety requirements in the world. To ensure these laws are correctly implemented and effective we need to ensure they are applied in practice by reliable and trustworthy toy manufacturers and retailers; backed up by efficient market surveillance by Member States' authorities, and, importantly, that consumers know what to look for when they buy toys for children. If one or more of these elements is missing, dangerous toys may still reach our children.

As part of the on-going "European Toy Safety" campaign, the European Commission created a video informing consumers how to both buy safe toys and use them safely. The video features CE-E, a singing robot, to introduce children to the idea of toy safety. The video also provides parents with access to toy safety tips on the dedicated campaign website.

The video clip emphasises certain safety tips to be kept in mind when buying toys and playing with them:

Never buy toys without the CE mark

The CE mark is a commitment from the toy maker that the toy complies with all applicable EU safety rules, which are amongst the strictest world wide.

Watch out for counterfeit toys

Illegal copies of well-known toy brands don't always confirm to EU safety standards and may pose a risk to your child's health and safety.

Do not buy toys with small detachable parts for children under 3 years of age

Choking is a particular risk for children under 3 years old, because they tend to put everything in their mouth! Toys bearing this symbol are not suitable for children under 3.

Read all warnings and instructions

For example, toy skates, bikes and scooters require parental supervision and protective equipment such as helmets to be worn because of abrasion hazards. They cannot be used in traffic because of the risk of road accidents.

These are not the only things parents need to keep in mind. More advice on toy safety is available on the dedicated Europa web page:

ec.europa.eu/enterprise/toys-tips

Industry and Member States roles in toy safety

Key aspects of ensuring toy safety are under the responsibility of the toy industry and EU Member States regulatory authorities. Industry is responsible for making sure that the toys they place on the market comply with the rules while Member States are responsible for enforcing the rules and conducting market surveillance. In February 2013, the Commission proposed to further strengthen market surveillance through a multi-annual plan and a single legislative instrument that will reinforce the controls on products in the internal market, allowing authorities to immediately withdraw non-compliant and dangerous products. This regulation will be directly applicable and binding in all Member States. This initiative should be adopted in early 2014.

Information campaigns for economic operators

The Commission is currently running a second round of the toy safety information campaign, targeting economic operators involved in toy manufacturing, marketing and testing. The campaign, which uses seminars and webinars to raise manufacturer, importer, retailer and test laboratories' awareness of toy safety rules, started in autumn 2013 and covers Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Cyprus, Greece, Hungary, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Slovakia and Slovenia. These countries were chosen to complement the initial campaign which targeted larger EU countries such as Italy. The Commission also educates manufacturers in China, since most of the toys in our shops are imported from there.

Controlling CE marking

The CE mark assures the consumer that the product is assessed before being placed on the market and meets EU safety, health and safety and environmental protection requirements. Supervisory authorities in all Member States must ensure efficient controls on the legitimate use of the CE mark by toy manufacturers, importers and distributors. They are also encouraged by the Commission to coordinate with each other to ensure coherence in standards interpretation, thus upholding businesses confidence that the market operates openly and evenly. By affixing the CE mark on a product, the manufacturer declares and takes full responsibility for the product's conformity with all relevant legal requirements. Proper enforcement of CE marking will win and maintain consumer confidence while the legal and economic repercussions of not complying with the rules are considerable, thus deterring the vast majority of legitimate businesses from breaking these laws.

For more information on CE marking see: IP/10/733, MEMO/10/257 CE page on Europa

For more information on the European toy industry, see: IP/11/908, MEMO/11/448, Toys page on Europa

Why fake products require real action

The spread of counterfeit goods is a major obstacle to economic growth. Fake goods which mimic legitimate items but cost a fraction of the price, damage legitimate enterprises and increase unemployment. The United Nations has estimated that the annual volume of trade in counterfeit goods is more than €200 billion worldwide, a number comparable to the illegal drug trade. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), on which the European economy heavily depends for new jobs, are particularly susceptible because they have less power to avoid counterfeiting. For all these reasons, in late 2013 the European Commission launched its ‘EU Stop Fakes’ campaign, which is designed to foster collaboration between different European and national authorities in the fight against counterfeit items.

Commonly counterfeited goods

Counterfeiting spans a multitude of sectors: medicines, fashion, food, automotive parts, electrical appliances, cosmetics and our children's toys, to name but a few. There is no simple, easy solution to this problem, which is why ‘EU Stop Fakes’ is a pan-European effort that transcends national and sectoral boundaries.

Fake products pose a risk to health and safety

While everyone loves a bargain, counterfeits can quickly become unusable or defective. They can be manufactured without due regard for European health and safety standards and simply cannot be trusted. Products that could be potentially dangerous to the health and safety of consumers accounted for 28.6 % of the total amount of confiscated articles in 2011, compared to 14.5 % in 2010.

Impact of counterfeiting on jobs

The companies making original products are also the ones making related investments in research and innovation. Counterfeit items that copy originals cause declining sales and profits, eventually translating into job losses. Counterfeiters also avoid paying taxes or duties, curtailing state revenues and passing the bill to European taxpayers.

Fake goods discourage innovation

The European economy has grown decade after decade based on a virtuous principle – that those who invent or create something are entitled to the legal protection of intellectual property rights. Individuals and companies will invest their time and money to develop new products only if they are assured of adequate protection. The fight against counterfeit goods is therefore fundamental for the EU economy and represents a key factor for success in research, innovation and generating employment.

For more information on the EU Stop Fakes campaign:

http://ec.europa.eu/commission_2010-2014/tajani/stop-fakes/index_en.htm http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-13-346_en.htm

Counterfeit products fuel organised crime

While counterfeit items weaken the EU economy, they strengthen organised crime. Because these products are illegal, they are underpinned by a black market that weaves through different countries and sometimes even different continents. While purchasing a counterfeit might seem innocent enough, supporting these products indirectly supports crime.

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