The Ex-Ante Impact Assessment unit of EPRS has recently produced, at the request of the IMCO Committee, two papers in relation to the ‘Product Safety and Market Surveillance Package’, which was adopted by the European Commission in February 2013.
This detailed appraisal analyses two aspects of the European Commission’s Impact Assessment (IA) accompanying its proposal for a Consumer Product Safety Regulation, which is a component of the package: country of origin marking and obligations for economic operators.
The ‘health check’ is carried out from two angles. First, it analyses whether the Commission’s IA is – with regard to the above subjects only – fit for its overall purpose, which is to aid political decision-making. Second, it analyses whether the IA meets the standards which the Commission has laid down in its internal Guidelines, as well as the quality criteria which the Parliament has defined in its resolutions.
A detailed analysis of both the IA and its Annexes leads to the following conclusions:
- The country of origin marking is not identified in the IA. By its own standards, the Commission should have analysed this option in depth, as it has significant impacts, is politically important and would introduce a new requirement in EU legislation.
- The obligations for economic operators, on the other hand, are partially described. Their impacts are partially analysed, drawing on an extensive consultation of stakeholders, which, however, drew only a limited response from manufacturers of non-harmonised goods.
- An impact assessment of an amendment in the IMCO report on the Consumer Product Safety Regulation (rapporteur: Mrs Schaldemose) on ‘EU Safety Tested’ marking
As for all IAs on substantive amendments, this has been carried out by an external consultant.
Consumers today often misinterpret the CE mark as a safety mark, assuming that CE marked products have been tested for safety and approved by some kind of authority. IMCO proposes, in its Amendment n° 60, the introduction of a voluntary ‘EU Safety Tested’ Mark. This new mark could be affixed by manufacturers to all non-food consumer products, provided they are tested positively by third parties.
This impact assessment aims at analysing the possible costs and benefits (in particular for SMEs) of introducing this ‘EU Safety Tested’ mark, and to assess its feasibility. According to the IA, the idea of taking further action in order to reduce the number of unsafe products on the market and to deal with the challenge of resource constraints for market surveillance was welcomed by many stakeholders. However, the added value of affixing a mark for consumers was questioned.
- According to the views expressed by the stakeholders consulted, affixing the proposed ’EU Safety Tested’ mark to products would yield little to no benefit for consumers. For instance, the mark would give no additional information, since its objective is not to guarantee that products meet higher safety requirements than the ones legally required, and to which consumers are thus entitled anyhow.
- Some stakeholders acknowledge that product testing by private third parties could be an additional measure in reducing the number of unsafe products on the market. According to some stakeholders, the mark should preferably be mandatory, but only for those products that represent the highest level of risk to human health and safety.
- Administrative burdens linked to the introduction of an ‘EU Safety Tested’ mark are probably moderate, though much will depend on the total volume of products produced per year, and it would be higher for SMEs. The mark would require an EU-wide information campaign, with an estimated cost of over € 2 million, and repeated efforts over several years.
- The criteria for assessing the legal level of safety would have to be elaborated by (European) Standardisation Bodies in order to ensure consistency across the EU and prevent different approaches undermining the overall credibility of the mark.
The IA suggests the following recommendations:
- The focus should be on detecting unsafe products from rogue traders instead of investing in a new mark for consumers.
- Bringing more consistency in third party testing across the EU would increase the legal commitment and reduce the legal uncertainty regarding the outcome of tests.
- A trade off should be made. On the one hand, the EU could invest in a new European safety scheme with a possibly more important role for private operators to complement the efforts of public market enforcement authorities. On the other, a viable option could be to directly allocate more resources to enforce the existing safety rules. The latter option is considered by most stakeholders to be the most efficient and effective by far.