General Product Safety: updating the 2020 industrial strategy for a stronger single market
In March 2020, the European Union launched its initiative for the updated industrial strategy for Europe. In the document “Business Journey on the Single Market: Practical Obstacles and Barriers”, the European Commission identified specific points that the European Union would address in the future. In particular, the publication includes a list of matters that impact businesses in Europe. Among others, the issues affecting businesses are:
- different technical standards;
- unfair competition from non-compliant products;
- administrative burdens to conform to technical requirements.
In order to tackle those issues, the EU is seeking to revise the General Product Safety Directive (GPSD). This Directive applies to all products placed on the EU market when no other specific legislation covers that category of goods. Therefore, Updating the GPSD would mean to address issues for a wide range of products.
The gaps of the current General Product Safety Directive
Currently, some of the main issues with the GPSD are:
· It is outdated and it does not consider the e-commerce growth;
· It does not take into account products sold directly by EU consumer sites based outside the EU;
· It lacks an effective recall system;
· It does not cover new technologies.
The overhaul: from online marketplaces to connected devices
On June 30, 2021, the Commission published the draft for a new GSPD. The Commission is seeking to overhaul the legislation not as a Directive, that would require further implementation by the Member State, but as Regulation. Among others, the drafts includes a section specifically on the obligations of online marketplaces. Specifically, online marketplaces would be required to provide consumers with the necessary safety and traceability information on the products, as provided by the seller.
Furthermore, the EU will try to tackle the placing of products on the European market through the direct internet sale to consumers. The manufacturers would require an authorised representative to ensure compliance with the safety requirements of the updated GSPD. This would tie in with the traceability and recall of products. Indeed, under the updated GPSD, traceability and product recall will become legal requirements for manufacturers.
What comes next?
Looking forward in the future, the legislation is anticipating the rise of the Internet of Things. The future holds that more and more objects will be connected to the internet. In this sense, the future legislation would require that connected devices sold in the EU would need a risk assessment to evaluate cybersecurity features and their evolving, learning, and predictive functionalities. This is due to the fact that the product safety definition will include "the appropriate cybersecurity features necessary to protect the product against external influences, including malicious third parties, when such an influence might have an impact on the safety of the product". In other words, connected objects would not merely fall within the scope of the Regulation in their physical form but in their intangible form as well.
Eventually, competent authorities will have more power in market surveillance activities related to GPSD products, such as those defined in the Regulation on market surveillance and compliance of products. Market surveillance authorities check products’ characteristics, for instance, by inspecting documentation and, where appropriate, through tests.
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Regulatory Affairs Department
EESC. (2021). 564th plenary session of the European Economic and Social Committee. Retrieved on 20/06/2022 from https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:52021AE1716&from=EN
European Commission. (2020). Business Journey on the Single Market: Practical Obstacles and Barriers. Retrieved on 20/06/2022 from https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:52020SC0054&from=EN
European Commission. (2020). Long term action plan for better implementation and enforcement of single market rules. Retrieved on 20/06/2022 from https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/default/files/communication-enforcement-implementation-single-market-rules_en_0.pdf
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