EU Commission publishes annual RAPEX report on product safety in the EU
On 23 March 2015, the EU Commission published its annual report on the functioning of the RAPEX system. For more than ten years now, the EU Commission has, on the basis of the European Product Safety Directive 2001/95/EC, been collecting the information received from the RAPEX Member States about unsafe products distributed in the EU and made this information available online on a weekly basis (ec.europa.eu/rapex
). This always ensures broad public awareness of the recalling, state marketing prohibition or voluntary withdrawal from sale of any non-food consumer product ranging from cars, household appliances, toys and fashion products to DIY tools and furniture.
Statistically, the most frequent reports on dangerous products in the EU came from the Hungarian, German, Spanish and French market surveillance authorities. 2014 marked a new record number of notifications for the system, including notifications relating to products with “serious risks” (the highest risk classification). During the entire calendar year, 2155 reports about “products with serious risks” were submitted, corresponding to approximately 40 reports of dangerous products per week.
Industry point of view
A critical point to be noted from an industry point of view, however, is the lack of transparency and often the lacking logic of the underlying reports submitted by national authorities. Many reports, for example, are submitted with the classification “serious risk”, although it is unfortunately often clear that no balanced, comprehensible RAPEX risk assessment has been carried out, as is in fact required by the Product Safety Directive 2001/95/EC and the guidelines issued by the EU Commission in this respect. When examined more closely, many product defects that are classified as “serious risks” neither exhibit, nor are even able to exhibit this level of risk at all. In the final analysis, this risk classification categorised by customers as drastic does not reflect the actual lower risk. From a business management point of view, this is linked to unnecessary damage to reputation and adversely affects consumer behaviour.
The RAPEX system is therefore still lacking any corrective, editorial review. The EU Commission in fact publishes the risk levels reported to it by the Member States exactly as they are received without monitoring their content in any way. This is, incidentally, a double-edged development in terms of consumer protection because it means that really serious safety issues may get lost in the flood of reports that are received. It is precisely this which means that the RAPEX system can no longer ensure an efficient “notice board function”. The fact that these reports from national authorities are published without their content being checked at all also explains why, in statistical terms, the number of reports has continuously increased in the last ten years. It cannot seriously be assumed that the world of B2C products has become more and more unsafe over the last decade. The opposite is likely to be the case, since the legislator has issued increasingly stricter regulatory safety requirements for many product industries.
Any questions? Please contact: Prof. Dr. Thomas Klindt
Practice Group: Litigation, Arbitration & ADR