“European consumer rules guarantee that only safe products are sold in the EU. If this is not the case, the Rapid Alert System supports authorities to react quickly and remove any products that might cause injuries. Thanks to this system, we are keeping our children safe and preventing fatal accidents on our roads. This is a good example of how to efficiently enforce EU consumer rules. Unfortunately, in many other areas we need to improve enforcement and make sure consumers can benefit from their rights. This is what our upcoming ‘New Deal for Consumers’ is all about.” Said Věra Jourová, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality.
Today, the European Commission releases its 2017 report on the Rapid Alert System for dangerous products. In 2017, the system was increasingly used by national authorities with more than 2,000 alerts on dangerous products circulated through the Rapid Alert System. Toys, for instance several models of the popular fidget spinners, cars and motorcycles topped the list of dangerous products detected and removed from the markets. The Rapid Alert System is an important tool for the enforcement of EU consumer laws by national consumer authorities. To further improve the enforcement, the Commission will unveil its ‘New Deal for Consumers’ in April, which aims at modernising the existing rules and improving the protection of consumers. The 2,201 alerts sent through the Rapid Alert System prompted nearly 4,000 follow-up actions, such as the withdrawal of products from the market. This shows that all national authorities closely monitored the alerts in the system and took all necessary measures to help make the market safer for consumers.
“As social media networks are used as advertising and commercial platforms, they must fully respect consumer rules. I am pleased that the enforcement of EU rules to protect consumers by national authorities is bearing fruit, as some companies are now making their platforms safer for consumers; however, it is unacceptable that this is not complete and that it is taking so much time. This confirms that we need a ‘New Deal for Consumers’: EU consumer rules should be respected and if companies don’t comply, they should face sanctions.” Said Vera Jourová, European Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality.
Social media companies need to do more to respond to the requests, made last March by the European Commission and Member States’ consumer authorities, to comply with EU consumer rules. The changes made by Facebook, Twitter and Google+ to align their terms of services with EU consumer protection rules have been published today. These changes will already benefit more than a quarter of a billion of EU consumers who use social media: EU consumers will not be forced to waive mandatory EU consumer rights, such as their right to withdraw from an on-line purchase; they will be able to lodge their complaints in Europe, rather than in California; and the platforms will take up their fair share of responsibilities towards EU consumers, similarly to the off-line service providers. However, the changes only partially fulfil the requirements under EU consumer law. While Google’s latest proposals appear to be in line with the requests made by consumer authorities, Facebook and, more significantly, Twitter, have only partially addressed important issues about their liability and about how users are informed of possible content removal or contract termination. The national consumer authorities and the Commission will monitor the implementation of the promised changes and will actively use the notice and action procedure provided by the companies. Moreover, authorities may take action including enforcement measures where necessary.
“Shopping online is an easy way for consumers to shop, but it shouldnevercome at the expense of safety. With the new guidelines, national surveillance authorities will be able to check products bought online and ensure that all products sold in Europe are safe. Our latest figures show that trust in e-commerce is growing. Today’s safety measures will further contribute to this trend and reassure consumers. It’s our duty to make sure online commerce is as safe as traditional shopping.” said Vĕra Jourová, EU Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality.
The Commission has issued guidelines to help national market surveillance authorities better control products sold online. In 2017, 55% of Europeans buy online (2017 Consumer Scoreboard) and get products shipped directly to their door, escaping the authorities’ traditional controls. Some of these products might be dangerous and not in line with EU product safety laws, for instance toys containing substances banned in the EU. The guidelines published today clarify: 1) that any product sold online to the EU has to comply with EU product legislation, even if the producer is based outside the EU; 2) 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; and 3) the responsibility of all actors in the supply chain, including fulfilment service providers who receive the order, package and send the product.
Elżbieta Bieńkowska, Commissioner for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, added: “With rising online sales, national market surveillance authorities find controlling and tracing products sold on-line increasingly complex. This guidance will ensure Europeans can shop online safely while further measures to strengthen market surveillance in Europe are planned for later this year.” As outlined in the 2015 Single Market Strategy, the Commission is working on a package of measures later this year that will open up more opportunities to companies that want to expand cross-border and keep unsafe and non-compliant products out from the EU market.