European Commission Clamp Down On Non-Compliance Of Products Sold Online

European Commission NoticeIf you are a chemical company supplying products online, you should be aware of this important notice. The European Commission (EC) has this month issued guidelines to help national market surveillance authorities better control products sold online. With the majority of Europeans now buying products online and getting items shipped directly to their door, the Commission has raised concerns over the compliance of these products, and is assisting Member State authorities in the enforcement of relevant EU legislation.

The Rise of E-Commerce

The internet has significantly changed how consumers shop, and how businesses advertise and sell their goods and services. As e-commerce continues to experience rapid growth, consumers have been able to benefit from greater choice and more competitive prices.

However, the development of e-commerce has also posed certain challenges regarding the protection of the health and safety of end-users from dangerous products, and/or products that do not comply with the requirements set out under EU regulations.

In response, the EC has placed an increased focus on effective market surveillance in an attempt to overcome these challenges.

What is Market Surveillance?

Market surveillance aims to ensure that non-food products on the EU market do not endanger consumers and workers, whilst protecting other public interests such as the environment, security and fair trade.

The European Commission has stated that market surveillance is ‘crucial for the smooth functioning of the Single Market’, and includes actions such as product withdrawals, product recalls, and the application of sanctions and penalties to stop the circulation of non-compliant products, and/or to bring them into compliance.

The EC uses both EU market surveillance legislation and its Single Market Strategy to increase compliance in this area.

What is the Single Market Strategy?

The Single Market Strategy – which was adopted on 28th October 2015 – emphasised that the growing number of illegal and non-compliant products in the Single Market was distorting competition amongst businesses and putting consumers and other end-users at risk. As such, the European Commission pledged to launch a comprehensive set of actions to further enhance efforts to promote compliance, and to keep non-compliant products out of the EU market. This would be achieved by strengthening market surveillance, and by providing the right incentives – and penalties – to economic operators.

In October 2016, the EC launched a public consultation on these possible actions (which can be viewed here), and just last week issued its notice containing official guidelines to help national market surveillance authorities better control products sold online.

What is in the European Commission Notice?

The EC Notice aims to assist Member State authorities in enforcing EU legislation on the safety and compliance of non-food products, and sets out good practices for the market surveillance of products sold online.

The guidelines in the notice clarify:

  • That any product sold online in the EU has to comply with relevant EU legislation, even if the producer is based outside of the EU
  • The obligations of online marketplaces when authorities require them to remove dangerous products through the ‘notice and action procedure’, as defined in the e-Commerce Directive
  • The responsibility of all actors in the supply chain, including fulfilment service providers who receive the order, and package and send the product

You can read the Notice in full here.

Next Steps

Whilst the EC Notice does not pertain solely to chemical products, it is crucial that companies who supply the EU market or sell products online take note of these guidelines, and are wary of this heavy focus on market surveillance and the enforcement of compliance in relation to e-commerce.

At UL Safeware Quasar we have a dedicated team of Regulatory Consultants who have a comprehensive understanding of chemical regulations across the globe, and are constantly monitoring the legislation to ensure that are software solutions are fully up to date, and to help hundreds of companies sustain compliance. Contact us to find out more.

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Useful Information

The Commission Notice on the Market Surveillance of Products Sold Online (PDF)

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