The European Union has published the Regulation (EU) 2023/988 on General Product Safety in the Official Journal of May 23, 2023. The new regulation replaces and repeals the General Product Safety Directive 2001/95/EC and 87/357/EEC; and it amends Regulation (EU) 1025/2012 and Directive 2020/1828.
The General Product Safety Directive 2001/95/EC has been revised to update and modernize the general framework for safety in non-food consumer products, preserving its role as a safety net for consumers and ensuring a level-playing field for businesses.
The new publication is a regulation, no longer a directive. It imposes clear and detailed rules without risks of divergent transposition by Member States.
The General Product Safety Directive has been key to ensuring the safety of consumer products. However, it has been noted that too many products that do not comply with the current safety requirements are still circulating on the EU market. In addition to essential safety problems, this has proved to be costly for consumers and society. Expenditures are linked to health expenditure related product-related accidents and additional costs relating to the circulation of dangerous products.
The following concerns needed to be addressed:
- Challenges linked to new technology
- Challenges related to the growth of online sales
- Complex market surveillance rules – not fully efficient and often not consistent with rules relevant for harmonized areas
- Potential lack of efficacy in recalling unsafe products from consumers
- Inconsistency of application for safety rules for food-imitating products across the EU
- Need to align provisions on standardization with relevant regulation
And problems were expected to increase over time, due to increasing globalization and digitalization.
The new regulation applies to products placed or made available on the European market, whether new, used, repaired or reconditioned, insofar as there are no specific provisions with the same objective of safety under Union law.
The newly published General Product Safety Regulation (GPSR) introduces the following novelties:
- Gives a clear definition of “economic operator” – includes manufacturers, authorized representatives, importers, distributors and fulfilment service providers. The economic operator is subject to obligations in relation to the manufacture of products or making them available on the market in accordance with this regulation. To ensure enforcement of safety rules companies that are not economic operators within the EU must establish a responsible person in the EU to import products. This definition is particularly important in the field of online sales.
- Addresses new hazards linked to new technologies – for example, external intervention hacking a product or changing its characteristics (cybersecurity threats with safety implication) (art 6)
The regulation also clarifies software related rules and definitions (art 15, 37)
- The new GPSR aims to ensure better enforcement of the product safety rules, and a more efficient and even market surveillance
The rule implements a systematic use of the Safety Business Gateway, including the need for accident reporting (art 27). This web portal, which is maintained by the Commission enhances traceability and facilitates the exchange of information between economic operators and market surveillance authorities and consumers.
Arbitration mechanisms are set to solve potential divergences in risk assessment (art 29).
A European network of member states authorities, competent for product safety, the “Consumer Safety Network”, is established. This serves as a platform for structured coordination and cooperation and facilitates the implementation of this regulation (art 30).
- Addresses the challenges posed to product safety by the growth of online sales, including via online marketplaces (art 22)
Online marketplaces have the obligation to register in the Safety Gate Portal, indicating their single point of contact. They have to follow up on orders and notices; they have to design their interfaces to ensure the traceability of the products and availability of safety information, and they have to cooperate with Market Surveillance Authorities.
Requirements for online and offline sales are aligned; online the same information shall be displayed as it is with the product offline.
- Making product recalls more effective
The regulation sets requirements for raising consumer awareness. This can be achieved by various means, including direct notification of consumers, wide dissemination of information and use of registration schemes. It also aims to improve consumer reactions to recalls, listing key elements for recall notices with a mandatory template and enforcing the right to provide remedies (art 36 and 37).
The Safety Gate Portal is improved to enhance the effectiveness of product recalls and information.
- Food imitating products safety assessment is integrated into the regulation
The GPSR repeals the food-imitating product directive 85/357/EEC and introduces aspects related to food imitating products into its safety assessment. It also extends the requirements to child-appealing products.
- New provisions for standardizing procedures are included, amending Regulation (EU) 1025/2012
The regulation introduces specific safety requirements that will be adopted under the GPSR procedure, the concept of “European Standard drafted in support of regulation”, and the publication of the standards by the Commission in the Official Journal.
The GPSR was published on May 23, 2023, in the Official Journal of the European Union. It entered in force on the twentieth day following its publication, June 13, 2023.
There will be an 18-month transition period before the new regulation begins to apply, December 13, 2024.
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