The event – which attracted MEPs and representatives from The European Committee of Domestic Equipment Manufacturers (CECED), the European Engineering Industries Association (Orgalime), Pro-Safe (the product safety enforcement forum of Europe), European consumer bodies and other NGOs – also focused on the forthcoming Consumer Product Safety Regulation and the Market Surveillance Regulation package.
Designed to clarify and simplify EU product safety requirements, the package aims to improve traceability and recalls and strengthen a collaborative approach to market surveillance.
‘Current EU rules on market surveillance and consumer product safety are fragmented – scattered over different pieces of legislation – creating gaps, overlaps and confusion,’ explained Phil Buckle, director general of the ESC, who chaired the discussion. ‘Our Brussels roundtable brought together key European stakeholders, to progress our proposed changes to the legislation, which focus on improving recall and traceability.’
The ESC has already had some amendments to the legislation tabled, including a requirement for manufacturers and distributors to demonstrate recall capability (if called on), and ensuring vulnerable users are considered when assessing a product’s safety.
The charity has also lobbied hard for improvements to the traceability process to be extended through to the consumer from point of sale and offered suggestions as to how this might work. Ideas include the development of a centralised database product registration system or, alternatively, through increased use of product registration cards.
Consumer fears that personal information would be used for marketing purposes means the cards currently have a very low return rate. However, research* shows that people would trust an organisation like the ESC to use the information for a specific purpose only, such as a product recall.
Other topics covered at the event ranged from the problem of enforcing market surveillance regulations, to the idea of a pan-European market surveillance authority. There was a general consensus, however, on the need for increased consumer engagement to help improve recalls and traceability, with many arguing that greater access to retailers’ marketing information could help with this process.
‘Traceability and product recall – which not only affect corporate reputation but also the financial bottom line – impact on the whole supply chain across the Single Market,’ added Phil. ‘Engaging with the European Parliament reaffirms our view that the consumer is best served by us working with industry and regulators on both the national and European stage, as it makes ethical and commercial sense to take this collaborative approach.’
*Data obtained from Populus online survey of 2,024 people undertaken between 12th – 14th April 2013