The FINANCIAL — Today, the European Commission published its annual report on the Safety Gate, which is the EU rapid alert system for dangerous consumer products helping to take dangerous non-food products off the market. The report shows that the number of actions taken by authorities following an alert is growing year by year, reaching a new record number of 5,377, compared to 4,477 in 2019. 9% of all alerts raised in 2020 concerned products related to COVID-19, mostly masks meant to protect but failing to do so. Other examples for dangerous COVID-19 related products notified in the Safety Gate are disinfectants containing toxic chemicals, such as methanol that can lead to blindness or even death if swallowed, or UV sanitizers that exposed users to strong radiation causing skin irritations European Commission notes.
Didier Reynders, Commissioner for Justice, said: “The Safety Gate has demonstrated to be crisis-proof: during the COVID-19 pandemic, it has helped protect consumers by being a key instrument to efficiently and swiftly circulate information concerning dangerous products, such as unsafe masks or toxic disinfectants and remove them from the market. With protective tools such as this one, consumer rights are further guaranteed.”
Main findings of the report
Surveillance action focused on COVID-19 related products that have become essential to all consumers and hence in 2020 there were 161 alerts on masks, 3 alerts on specific overalls, 13 alerts on hand disinfectants and 18 alerts on UV lamps supposed to function as sterilizers. The alerts circulated in the system continue this year.
In 2020, authorities from the 31 participating countries of the Safety Gate network (EU Member States plus Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and the UK) exchanged a total of 2,253 alerts on measures taken against dangerous products through the system. They reacted with 5,377 follow-up actions. This represents an increase of more than 20% from the 2019 number of follow-ups.
According to the report, toys are the most notified product category (27% of total notifications), followed by motor vehicles (21%) and electrical appliances and equipment (10%). This illustrates that market surveillance in the EU has a special focus on children, a vulnerable consumer group. In general, the most frequently flagged concerns related products causing injuries such as fractures or concussions (25%), followed by chemical components in products (18%) and risks for children to choke (12%).
As European Commission notes, in comparison to last year, more online marketplaces are committing to improve the safety of the products they sell. Yesterday, two new signatories have joined the Product Safety Pledge initiative: Joom and Etsy. They thus promise to check products on Safety Gate are not for sale on their websites and to act quickly in case national authorities signal to them any dangerous products, which should be taken down.
The Commission rewards businesses that go the extra mile to protect consumers with the EU’s Product Safety Award. This year’s edition, which was launched for applications yesterday, will focus on initiatives aimed at protecting vulnerable consumers in particular and on the use of new technologies to enhance product consumer safety. The deadline to apply is April 30th. You can find more information here.
Since 2003, the Safety Gate enables quick exchange of information between EU/EEA member states, the UK and the European Commission about dangerous non-food products posing a risk to health and safety of consumers. This way, appropriate follow-up action can be taken and products can be banned from the market.
Matching with the publication of the report, the Commission has launched its fully revamped Safety Gate public website with a modern and user-friendly interface to speed up and facilitate the notification process. Pages are progressively translated into all EU languages, Icelandic and Norwegian. Businesses can also use the Business Gateway to quickly and efficiently inform national authorities about security concerns regarding a product that they have put on the market.
Another action on consumer protection is the https://ec.europa.eu/info/files/product-safety-pledge_en , which sets out specific voluntary actions of marketplaces to swiftly remove offers of unsafe products from their platforms. To date, eleven online marketplaces have signed this agreement to cooperate with Member States to remove dangerous products from their websites: bol.com, eMAG, Wish.com, AliExpress, Amazon, eBay, Rakuten France, Allegro, Cdiscount, and yesterday, Etsy and Joom.