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Market surveillance plays a crucial role in the field of consumer product safety as even the best rules are worth little if they are not enforced properly. That is why effective market surveillance is so important; not only to protect consumers from unsafe products but also to ensure a level playing field for reputable businesses.

In the European Union, market surveillance for non-food consumer products is the responsibility of the Member States. Under the General Product Safety Directive (GPSD), the Member States nominated or established authorities with responsibility for market surveillance. These authorities must have the necessary resources and powers at their disposal for surveillance activities. In practice this means they check that products meet the applicable safety requirements, that steps are taken to make products compliant, and that sanctions are applied when necessary.

To assist the Member States market surveillance officers in their day-to-day work, in 1992 several officials established PROSAFE – the Product Safety Enforcement Forum of Europe. This non-profit organisation aims to promote informal discussions between market surveillance officers in order to share and learn from each others’ experiences and to develop best practice amongst market surveillance organisations. Thanks to significant support from the Commission, over the past few years PROSAFE has established itself as an important coordination body for European market surveillance.

With the adoption of the so-called "New Legislative Framework", market surveillance for consumer products was given new impetus with strengthened requirements for the Member States and enhanced cooperation between authorities. For more information please see the New Approach web pages of the Directorate General for Enterprise and Industry.

Joint surveillance and enforcement actions

The nature of the internal market, combined with the effects of global supply chains, make it increasingly necessary to adopt a truly co-ordinated approach to market surveillance. The Commission supports further cooperation between the Member States through financial assistance for joint surveillance actions from its financial framework for Consumer policy.

These joint surveillance and enforcement actions in the area of non-food consumer product safety involve administrative and surveillance cooperation between the authorities of several Member States and EFTA/EEA countries. They typically focus on product testing, risk assessment, market monitoring, and the exchange of expertise and best practices related to market surveillance.

Over the past 5 years, the Commission has supported more than 10 such actions, including:

ICSMS2

The overall objective of the ICSMS2 project is to optimise ICSMS (a data exchange system on market surveillance) as a tool for the realisation of the network article 10 of the General Product Safety Directive (GPSD, 2001/95/EC). It aims to achieve this objective by connecting ICSMS with the RAPEX System; improving the statistical evaluation possibilities of ICSMS; and integrating more languages in order to facilitate the use for additional Member States. For more information, please see: www.icsms.org

SUSYSAFE

SUSYSAFE stands for Surveillance System on Suffocation Injuries due to Foreign Bodies in European children. Suffocation due to foreign bodies is a leading cause of death in children aged 0-3 and is also common in older age groups, up to 14 years. The aim of the SUSYSAFE project, which runs between February 2005 and the end of 2009, was to establish a surveillance registry for injuries due to the ingestion of non-food foreign bodies, to collect as much scientific data as possible and to serve as the basis for a knowledge-based consumer protection activity in the European market. For information about the project, please see: http://www.susysafe.org/

EMARS

The Enhancing Market Surveillance through Best Practice (EMARS) project aims to ensure a basic level of expertise and practical experience in most of the market surveillance organisations of Member States within the EEA by establishing a more coordinated and well-established best practice technique in the area of market surveillance between various States; a more balanced and fair market surveillance strategy throughout the single market; a basic "Knowledge base", "Handbook to Best Practice in Market Surveillance" and "Handbook Risk assessment" and more confidence in market surveillance throughout the Single Market by consumer and business representatives. EMARS, which ran between the beginning of 2006 and the end of 2008, was carried out by members of PROSAFE, the product safety enforcement forum of Europe, an informal network of market surveillance officials. For more information, please see: http://www.emars.eu/

Cord extension sets

The Administrative Cooperation Working Group (ADCO) under the Low Voltage Directive (LVD) is undertook a project regarding the safety of so-called multiple outlet cord extension sets. The main objective of the project was to improve the safety of these products, which are ubiquitous in all households and are often found to be unsafe. Secondly, the project aimed at changing cross-border market surveillance, from an often ad-hoc activity to an integral part of the daily work of market surveillance officers. For more information about the results of this project please see: Electrical appliances: Market surveillance efforts by Member States' authorities result in improved safety for consumers

Lighting chains

Market surveillance experience in the Member States demonstrates that lighting chains with severe safety deficiencies are being placed on the EU market and that many lighting chains fail to comply with the Low Voltage Directive. These products not only pose a risk for the health and safety of consumers because of the hazard of electric shock, but they also present the risk of fire and injury, which can cause very serious damages for the users. The main objective of the project, which ran between November 2007 and March 2009, was to enforce the existing legislation applicable to these products in a cross border project and to raise the awareness of the applicable requirements within the industry.

Child-resistant lighters and novelty lighters

Following Commission Decision 2006/502/EC requiring Member States to take measures to ensure that only lighters which are child-resistant are placed on the market and to prohibit the placing on the market of novelty lighters, the Member States and PROSAFE are running a joint action to ensure that manufacturers and importers abide by the requirements of the Decision. The project, which runs between August 2007 and November 2009, aims to ensure that lighters placed on the EU market are safe and to gather experience related to best practice techniques in following up large joint actions and to further develop best practices for national market surveillance actions. For more information about the project, please see: http://www.emars.eu/Market_Surveillance_of_Ciga.html

Playground equipment

Playgrounds are a source of joy for many children. Needless to say that every piece of playground equipment which does not comply with the applicable safety requirements may pose risks to the health and safety of a vulnerable consumer group due to their age and lack of experience. The main objectives of the project, which ran between September 2007 and November 2008, were to ensure that playground installations in participating countries met the safety requirements and to raise the consumer awareness regarding the safety of playground equipment. For more information about the results of the project, please see: http://www.uokik.gov.pl/en/press_office/press_releases/art138.html

Cords and drawstrings on children's clothing

There is a general concern among experts in child safety about cords and drawstrings because they present a risk for strangulation to children. Available data shows that accidents (and often fatalities) occur because children are trapped in long cords. The primary purpose of the market surveillance joint action, which runs between September 2008 and December 2009, is to ensure that children's clothing placed on the EU market is safe with regard to cords and drawstrings.
For the final results of this joint action please click here PDF
Press release
Questions and answers

Toys

Toys are used by a vulnerable consumer group namely children. Especially young children (under 3) are at risk from small parts (including small magnets) and heavy metals in toys due to their tendency to mouth such products. The main objective of this market surveillance joint action, which runs between September 2008 and December 2009, is to ensure that toys intended for children under 3 years old placed on the European market are safe.
For the final results of this joint action please click here PDF.

Sun beds and solarium services

According to an opinion of the Scientific Committee on Consumer products (SCCP) to the European Commission, the use of ultraviolet-radiation devices, tanning lamps and sunbeds, to achieve and maintain cosmetic tanning, is likely to increase the risk of malignant melanoma of the skin. The main objective of this market surveillance joint action, which ran between September 2008 and December 2009, is to ensure that sun beds comply with the safety requirements of the Low Voltage Directive and that sun beds offered in services (e.g. solariums) are safe, especially regarding UV radiation and instructions for safe use.
For the final results of this joint action please click here PDF
Press release
Questions and answers
Read more

EMARSII

Following on from the successful EMARS project, EMARSII will take forward the results achieved during the first phase, and aims to further strengthen cooperation between the Member States on consumer product safety by further promoting the use of the Rapid Advice Forum, extending the knowledge base, updating the Handbook, establishing an EU-wide training programme for market surveillance inspectors and coordinating the authorities' input into standardisation. For more information about this project, which runs between November 2008 and December 2011, please see: www.emars.eu

Helmets

Given the continuous high level of head injuries in certain sports, including skiing, horse riding and bike riding, where the wearing of protective head gear (i.e. helmets) is obligatory or at least recommended, this joint market surveillance action, which took place between December 2009 and November 2010, aimed at ensuring that only safe helmets (helmets for alpine skiers, snowboarders, cyclists skate boarders and horse riders) are placed on the EU market, that they all carry the appropriate warnings and instructions and that non-compliant helmets are immediately removed from the market. Moreover, the action aimed at establishing an overview of economic operators who place helmets on the EC market, establishing testing criteria and procedures for joint testing, identifying possible potential for improvement of the relevant standards and identifying any traces of Dimethyl Fumerate (DMF) in helmets, particularly in equestrian helmets.

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Role of customs

Given the ever-growing imports into the European Union from third countries, guaranteeing the safety of consumer products will increasingly rely on the ability of surveillance authorities to check for unsafe products before they enter the market. Therefore, customs authorities, with their ability to check goods coming into the internal market from outside the EU, have an important role in protecting the public from imported unsafe products.

This not only implies an ever-closer cooperation between market surveillance and customs authorities, but also between customs authorities of different Member States, for example, to avoid goods refused at one entry point from gaining access somewhere else.

To strengthen the co-operation between market surveillance and customs authorities, the Austrian Ministry of Finance (with financial help from the European Commission) hosted a seminar between 8 and 10 April 2008 in Saalfelden/Austria. This unique event provided an opportunity for Customs and Market Surveillance experts from all Member States, Candidate countries (Croatia and Turkey), Norway, Switzerland and the United States of America to exchange views and best practices on their cooperation in the field of product safety.

For more information, please consult the conclusionsPDF of the seminar.

To give more political attention to the important role of customs in ensuring product safety, Consumer protection Commissioner Meglena Kuneva visited the two biggest European ports in Rotterdam and Hamburg. During her visit, Mrs. Kuneva highlighted the relationship between ports and product safety, and stressed the importance of stepping up efforts to stop dangerous goods at ports. She was shown the practice of import controls and witnessed the opening of consignments. For more information about these visits please see:

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Study on the future of market surveillance of non-food consumer product safety under the General Product Safety Directive

In 2009, DG Health and Consumers commissioned a study on the future of market surveillance of non-food consumer product safety under the General Product Safety Directive.

Objectives:

  • Analyse the EU market surveillance framework of non-food consumer product safety;
  • Find its strengths and weaknesses and their causes;
  • Identify challenges to the framework in the changing environment, especially regarding market and supply chain conditions;
  • Recommend how to improve the framework.

Development Solutions Europe Ltd. and the British Standards Institution carried out the study in consortium.

Send your questions on the study to: Sanco-unit-B3@ec.europa.eu

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