Product Safety Update
Over the last two years Electrical Safety First has been working with policymakers and industry stakeholders on the Consumer Product Safety and Market Surveillance Regulation package (CPSR/MSR), as we believe this is vital for both the competiveness of the EU market and enhancing consumer safety across the single market.
Having successfully secured amendments to the original drafts relating to protection of vulnerable consumers and improving product recall procedures, the Charity is disappointed that the ‘Package’ remains stalled due to the stalemate between Member States on the controversial issue of mandatory ‘made in’ labelling requirement, contained in Article 7 of the proposed CPSR. Whilst the Charity believes this issue is non-safety related, it is fundamental to preventing the proposal from becoming law.
In response to concerns raised by stakeholders and to attempt sway Member State views and break the deadlock, the EU Commission undertook a technical study, focussed specifically on the labelling requirement and the impact on six groups of consumer products (toys, domestic appliances, electronics, textiles, footwear and ceramics).
The report from the study, which is based on views from European stakeholders and industry bodies relevant to the six groups, has now been published and some of the key findings are set out below.
The possibility that origin labelling might “ensure improved traceability” was one of three key areas which stakeholders were asked to consider; however, the majority of those consulted responded that there would be little or no net benefit arising from the introduction of Article 7. Specifically, the study found:
No impact on product traceability – Article 7 is “unlikely to substantially contribute to improving product safety”. Authorities in 16 member states, including the UK, expected no or very limited positive impact on traceability and safety. Notably, six responded that establishing origin provides “no added value”, is “not relevant”, or is “of no importance” to their work. However, it is worth noting that opinion remains split among member states, with seven identifying some benefits.
Irrelevant or misleading for consumers – labelling may not effectively communicate the origin of the product as understood by consumers. In other words it is difficult to ascertain the true origin of a product, as many are assembled from component parts made in a variety of countries. Domestic electrical appliances are characteristic of a particularly complex supply chain.
Increased costs for manufacturers – a majority of national authorities expect manufacturers to face additional costs in adapting to these new requirements.
Lack of consumer will – there is no clear evidence of consumer interest in origin labels, with consumers placing greater value on brand than country of origin.
The study did, however, identify the following benefits of country of origin labelling:
Expected to benefit consumers who make purchasing decisions based on country of origin – known as the ‘brand effect’.
Labelling could provide a stronger legal basis for pursuing counterfeit or misleadingly labelled products (although there is no clear evidence for this).
Stakeholders were also asked to give their views on proposals for alternative solutions – such as a voluntary scheme for country of origin labelling, and the lack of a feasible alternative – with no single option clearly preferred.
Overall findings and next steps
Disappointingly but not surprisingly, the study produced inconclusive results as to whether ‘made in’ labelling would improve product safety and help trace unsafe products. However, given that the majority view considered that the costs of introducing mandatory origin labelling outweigh the benefits, we remain hopeful that the study findings will be used to reopen dialogue to find a best-fit solution to progress the legislation to become law. Accordingly, the Charity is currently looking at how it can contribute to the debate and encourage stakeholders to focus on the original ‘intent’ and benefits that the CPSR/MSR package was expected to provide for business, authorities and consumers.