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Changes on the horizon for product safety regulation

The EU Commission has identified key areas they intend to address to ensure safety continuity for products entering the EU markets.

Introduction

The General Product Safety Directive (“GPSD”) was implemented in 2001 with the aim of ensuring that only non-food products that are safe can be sold into the EU single market (of which the UK is no longer a member). However, due to the evolving world of technology and online sales (and an EU Consultation between June and October 2020), the European Commission has identified that the GPSD is no longer sufficient in its current form to ensure adequate protection for all products and consumers.

As a result, the European Commission has published its Proposal (“the Proposal”) for an amended GPSD to cover the current GPSD inadequacies.

What is the Proposal?

The EU Commission has identified key areas they intend to address to ensure safety continuity for products entering the EU markets:

  1. New technology products
    The Proposal focuses on regulation of new technology and ensuring that a product remains safe during its period of use. Whether a product is safe will be assessed by a raft of measures to include expert committees and voluntary certification schemes. The definition of “product” is also set to be expanded to include interconnected items.

  2. Online sales
    The Proposal imposes obligations on sellers within the online marketplace which the current GPSD does not. This is certainly an area where the European Commission has detected a lack of regulation under the current regime. The Proposal includes the imposition of greater responsibility on those within the online marketplace by conducting more due diligence and investigating and removing the sale of dangerous products online.

  3. Market surveillance
    The Proposal aims to establish a Consumer Safety Network to share information and improve cooperation across the EU member states. Market surveillance authorities will also receive increased powers to impose fines on businesses which are non-compliant with the amended GPSD.

There are many other provisions contained within the Proposal, to include product recall and the notification by a seller through the Safety Business Gateway as soon as they receive a notice of any accident caused by a product.

Is it applicable to UK business?

Whilst the UK is no longer obliged to implement GPSD changes originating from the EU, it is likely to keep a watching brief due to its own proposed overhaul of product safety regulation. Assuming the Proposal becomes EU law, it is not guaranteed that the UK will replicate the provisions of the amended GDPS into domestic law. For those businesses selling products in the UK and EU, this could be problematic as there would be a requirement to follow two different regimes.

The proposal will now proceed for discussion by the EU Council and EU Parliament.

Our product liability solicitors provide a litigation and advice service for all product liability cases, including product recall, brand preservation, dispute resolution and claims against suppliers.

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