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EU Advances Plan to Toughen Product Safety Rules and Penalties

Tuesday, April 22, 2014
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

The European Parliament voted April 16 to support a proposal to tighten the European Union’s product safety rules and impose tougher penalties for violations. The vote means the work done this year can be taken up by the next Parliament and used as a basis for further negotiations with EU member states, which are reportedly having difficulty reaching agreement.

According to a Parliament press release, MEPs approved a plan to improve the traceability of goods and thus strengthen consumer protection by replacing the current voluntary system with mandatory country of origin labeling for manufactured non-food products sold in the EU single market, whether imported or produced in the EU. This “made in” labeling requirement would apply to all such items with a few exceptions, such as medicines, living plants and animals, plant protection products and antiques. EU manufacturers would be able to choose whether to put “made in EU” on the label or name their specific country. For goods produced in more than one place, the country of origin would be where the item underwent “the last substantial, economically justified processing” resulting in a “new product” or representing “an important stage of manufacture” (as defined in the EU Customs Code).

In addition, MEPs want penalties for placing noncompliant and potentially dangerous products on the market to be “effective, proportionate and dissuasive” and to take account of “the seriousness, the duration and, where applicable, the intentional character of the infringement.” Penalties would be defined by individual EU member states but could include criminal sanctions for serious breaches. MEPs are also proposing a public EU-wide blacklist of firms that are repeatedly found to intentionally infringe EU product safety rules. They further suggest establishing a pan-European database on product-related injuries suffered by consumers, particularly those involving products used at home and for leisure, transport and work activities.

The draft regulations would replace the General Product Safety Directive and amend Regulation (EC) No 765/2008 on accreditation and market surveillance.

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