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The General Product Safety Directive (GPSD) aims at ensuring that only safe consumer products are sold in the EU.

Objective and scope

A revised GPSD (2001/95/EC) is applicable as from 15 January 2004. The objectives of the Directive are both to protect consumer health and safety and to ensure the proper functioning of the internal market.

The GPSD is intended to ensure a high level of product safety throughout the EU for consumer products that are not covered by specific sector legislation e.g. toys, chemicals, cosmetics, machinery, etc. The Directive also complements the provisions of sector legislation which does not cover certain matters, for instance in relation to producers' obligations and the authorities' powers and tasks.

The Directive provides a generic definition of a safe product. Products must comply with this definition. If there are no specific national rules, the safety of a product is assessed in accordance with

  • European standards,

  • Community technical specifications,

  • codes of good practice,

  • the state of the art and the expectations of consumers.

Obligations of producers and distributors

In addition to the basic requirement to place only safe products on the market, producers must inform consumers of the risks associated with the products they supply. They must take appropriate measures to prevent such risks and be able to trace dangerous products.

Obligations of Member States

Under the GPSD, the Member States are obliged to enforce the requirements on producers and distributors. They must appoint the authorities in charge of market surveillance and enforcement. In addition to the power to impose penalties, the Directive gives the surveillance authorities a wide range of monitoring and intervention powers.

Exchange of information via a rapid alert system

The Directive provides for an alert system ( the RAPEX system) between Member States and the Commission. The RAPEX system ensures that the relevant authorities are rapidly informed of dangerous products. Subject to certain conditions, Rapid Alert notifications can also be exchanged with non-EU countries. In the case of serious product risks, the Directive provides for temporary Decisions to be taken on Community-wide measures.

The Directive on dangerous imitations prohibits the marketing, import and manufacture of products that look like foodstuffs but that are not edible.

Directive (87/357/EEC) applies to products which are not edible, but could easily be confused with foodstuffs by their appearance, smell or packaging. Member States must carry out checks to ensure that no such products are marketed. If a Member State bans a product under the terms of this Directive, it must inform the Commission and provide the details needed to inform the other Member States. Some examples

 
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